27 April 2011

The BoA constrictor of information

Bank of America must have a lot to hide. According to an article in The Tech Herald, it recently hired three data intelligence companies to outline a plan to attack Wikileaks. They are acting upon request from Hunton and Williams, a law firm working for Bank of America. The Department of Justice (yes, a government department paid by our tax dollars!) apparently recommended the law firm to Bank of America. The plan of action is to basically spread disinformation, including the submission of fake documents in order to subsequently expose the error.

26 April 2011

World's largest economy no more

The IMF says that in real terms, China's economy will overtake the U.S. in just 5 years.

Wisdom from a Organic Garden Supply Co-op

Life is a communal activity. Mycorrhizae in the soil entwine with the roots of plants bringing water and minerals to the plants and being fed in return. The insects and worms in the soil break matter down, releasing nutrients for all to use. Bacteria and fungi colonize the roots and leaves of plants and protect them from disease, all the while feeding themselves and thriving. Far from being a competition where every winner means that someone else has lost, the world of the soil embodies the ideal of a mutual-benefit society. But perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into how nature works when trying to understand people. It often leads to some pretty far-fetched theories. However, I can’t resist comparing the “nature red in tooth and claw” outlook of social Darwinism, which seems to be making a resurgence, with the advances in discoveries about soil-web ecology and the role that cooperation plays in biology and botany. 

A list of the 400 richest people in America was released recently showing that those few people controlled 1.4 trillion dollars. In a time of 10% unemployment and rising poverty, their wealth grew by 8% last year. These same people are fighting to retain the outrageous tax breaks they got during the Bush years, using their surrogates and lackeys on Fox News and in the Tea Party movement to vilify and smear President Obama. The furor over the Islamic Cultural Center in lower Manhattan, the ravings that global warming is a hoax, that marriage is under assault, phony issue after phony issue, all trotted out to distract us from the reality that our lives and prosperity are being sacrificed to increase the already obscene and pointless wealth of the few.

It’s time to take our country back. Our roots are planted in our communities and to be nourished we must provide nourishment to others, not junk food and junk politics. People are angry because they are frustrated and hungry. When we are frustrated, we often act irrationally (see Tea Party, above). We use junk ideas and junk food to try to make ourselves feel better. People need real nourishment, both mental and physical. Our communities and farms can provide it.

22 April 2011

Ja basta! (Warning: Birther rant may be offensive to the reality-challenged.)

I read today that about half of Republicans believe that Obama was born overseas. And adding insult to ignorance, we have the latest attempts to throw Obama off the ballots of various states based on various craziness about long and short forms and the ways that states choose to title birth documents. Such nonsense makes it hard to know what to think. On the one hand, I find the Democrats utterly reprehensible for their support for the wealthy over the interest of the middle and lower class (the lite version of the Republican platform). On the other hand, you've got this group of plutocratic kleptocrats who are foaming at the mouth about the sanctity of marriage while treating their staffers like their own private harem, all the while, spouting off visions of dinosaurs roaming Jerusalem with Jesus and African commie mulims sneaking into our borders so that they can seize power and set up one world government (come to think of it, if they could prove this about Obama, I might actually want to go out and vote for him). One can't help but think that Homo sapiens Americanus is an evolutionary dead-end.

19 April 2011

Where are all the great healers?

I got my blood test back today. As I suspected, my cholesterol is high again. It's definitely time to get serious about shedding those extra pounds. As I listened to the doctor discuss options, I realized, as I so often do, that he's read less on the options than I have. This is pretty typical. I've had dozens of doctors in my life, but I don't get the sense that any of the people were true experts. At best, they would state some correct (but very obvious) facts--the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry on the subject basically. Often, they would misdiagnose me or have me do expensive tests which didn't seem to be looked at by anybody.

Medicine is a science and good science works a bit like good magic. When the magician does something, it's impressive because the onlookers don't understand it--and can't understand it because of their faulty way of looking at things. Good science is the same--the scientist has a methodology that enables him to peer into a reality that normally remains invisible. A good doctor should be able to tell me things about myself that I, as a complete lay-person, can't know. But the truth is--if you give me a little time with Wikipedia and a few basic medical articles (perhaps a few metastudies from Yahoo Scholar) and give me the ability to order tests, I'm pretty sure that I could do everything my doctors do with same level of error. For some reason, American medicine (or at least, the medicine available to median wage-earners like myself) is producing few scientists and few healers. On the bright side, America's exorbitantly priced and low-quality medical system is giving me plenty of motivation to take care of my own health.

17 April 2011

Some tax season reflections

Two facts to ponder:

1. The latest reduction in government spending hashed out with much fanfare is just about completely offset by growth (yes, growth!) in military spending.

2. The Internal Revenue Service tracks the tax returns with the 400 highest adjusted gross incomes each year. The average income on those returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million. Their average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992 [link to news story]. Yet, the Republicans and the Republican Lite Party (formerly known as the Democrats) have vowed to give the wealthy ever-more generous breaks.

9 April 2011

Let...the sun shine

The Archdruid Report has a great post lambasting Obama's latest speech on energy (as he mentions, we've been listening to this drivel since Nixon) and an excellent overview of some simple solar solutions that work.

6 April 2011

Tough times for the highly qualified

The recent employment gains are interesting.  As would be expected, the older and more experienced workers suffer less unemployment, but that isn't where the gains have been recently. In fact, older workers' employment continues to decline in spite of the "recovery."

One explanation for this is that companies are now hiring cheap workers--not a great sign for the shrinking middle class.