Friday, February 29, 2008

The Torture Playlist

Apparently, there is a list out of songs that U.S. military prisons are using as a form of torture against terrorism suspects. It's a pretty diverse list, a lot of death metal in the early going, but then you hear Neil Diamond and Sesame Street later. A lot of people may really like these songs, but consider that the speakers are probably amped up to full volume. Shock waves probably go through the bodies of the detainees as these songs are playing. What's really ironic is that songs by Rage Against the Machine (who'll freak out over this) and Bruce are on the playlist. Apparently Reagan's '84 campaign staff weren't the only morons who felt that Born in the USA was a patriotic song.

And I know I'm wrong, but the fact that the Meow Mix commercial (with the cat going "meow, meow, meow" over and over again) is on the playlist is hillarious. I've always liked those commercials, but my position would probably change if I was being subjected to a continous 5 minute loop of it.

The Fading Jihadists

This is a really good column in the Washington Post on a new book out entitled "Leaderless Jihad." The author of the book theorizes that there are three generational waves of terrorists. The first two, Bin Laden and his leaders who formed in the 1980's, and the ones who trained in the Al-Qaeda camps in the 90's, are headless and on the run. The third wave are a "hodgepodge of terrorist wannabes" in their early 20's, who band together in chat rooms. They're "closer to urban gang members than to motivated Muslim fanatics."

In the minds of many, terrorism's appeal to effect change is limited. As the columnist states, we'd be better to leave it alone and let it fade away. What we're doing in Iraq is really like "taking a fire that would otherwise burn out and pouring gasoline on it."

I wish I could be that elequent, although I do agree. In the end, 9/11 happened, they came over here, because we've been over there. I never understood how expanding our presence, particularly in the Middle East, would have reversed that. As long as we keep this war going, and egg on the terrorists, we'll always be living with one eye open.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Hunting of a Governor

If Bill Clinton had remained governor of Arkansas rather than run for President, I have no doubt that he'd have served time in the Big House, like the former governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman, is currently doing. That's how morally bankrupt and out for blood these partisan nutjobs on the right are. Siegelman was basically sent to prison for giving a big campaign contributor a spot on a hospital oversight board. Something that's done in Washington, state capitals and town halls every single day. But that isn't his crime. His crime was being a Democrat who could beat Republicans in their own backyard. That was too much for Karl Rove and the other Bushies.

I liked how the article mentioned how the Bush administration gave major donors to his campaigns government positions as an incentive to raise money for him, and how it's considered campaign fundraising. It's only a crime when a Democrat does the same thing. But read the article, and watch the 60 Minutes report that's also on the website. There are a lot more layers, and my summary only scratches the surface.

Monday, February 25, 2008

In California, Foreclosures are exceeding Sales

Last month, for what one person said is the first time, there were more foreclosures on homes in California than there were sales. Of course, this shows that the real estate market really is slowing. Let's hope they go down further.

A World of Water Woes

This is a must-read article from Business Week talking about the shortages of useable water that are already happening throughout the world. Here, it isn't so bad, except of the shortfalls in water in the Southwest, and increasingly, the Southeast. The article doesn't really mention it, but I know that Georgia has serious water shortages. And if you think Africa's situation is bad now, wait until the middle of the century, where there's projected to be vast shortages throughout the entire continent. So read this article, it's a nice and sobering science lesson.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fiscal Tsunami

This is from Glenn Beck's show, which I'm typically not a fan of, but he speaks the truth about our government spending us into bankruptcy.

I like to embed videos right here in the blog, but for some reason, Internet Explorer won't let me copy and paste it here.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Hillary's campaign

I haven't been following the primaries as much as most people, but man, did Hillary's campaign tank or what? She's waited so long to be president (at least since 2000, when she got her Senate seat). Then this newcomer no one heard of came along and totally stole her thunder. I read a few articles about the (mis)management of her campaign, and you'd think the same people who drew up the plans for the initial invasion of Iraq were in charge of her campaign. They thought it was a cakewalk and that it'd all have been over a long time ago. Well, our soldiers are still in Iraq, and this campaign is still going on, and Hillary is going to lose.

Also, did anyone see her meltdown on Saturday? Man, that was this year's Dean moment. I think Hillary's out of money, and needs to do things like this in order to get free advertising from the media.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Coming Student Loan Crunch

This article immediately got my attention, as I'm currently going to school and I'm depending on student loans to get me through this program. Fortunately, it'll be over by December, so I don't have long to go. But I'm concerned for the fall semester now, and that it'll be taken care of. I'm going to talk to the financial aid office tomorrow after class. If worse comes to worse, I'm sure I'll complete the program somehow.

A silver lining that I got from this article, is that colleges and universities will be in big trouble if there is a real collapse in student loans. And I think that could be a good thing. I'd read that college tuition rates, which used to be fairly affordable as long as you had a part-time job or something to supplement it, skyrocketed with this access to loans and easy credit. If this becomes more difficult to get, than the colleges will be in big trouble unless they make tuition more affordable. It's the same with housing, cars, and our consumer-driven economy in general. Too often, we're buying things we really aren't able to afford.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ron Paul gets more support from military than any other candidate

I visited Ron Paul's campaign website and saw something very interesting. I had already heard this on Bill Maher's show, but just to point out: Ron Paul has gotten greater financial contributions from people in the military than all the other remaining candidates, Republican and Democrat, combined. And yes, McCain is included in that total. I find that impressive, considering that I always thought the military, by and large, supported Iraq. I know there have been substanial pockets of dissent, like the interviews given out as well as Michael Moore's book of letters from those who'd served in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it's bigger than I'd thought, based on Paul's contributions.

A (Possible) change of course for the blog

Up to this day, I've been blogging mostly about political and social issues. I visit a few websites and blogs daily, mainly centering around politics, and mostly use those stories as inspiration for my own posts. But lately, I've become very fascinated with economics, particularly our pending recession and the burst of the housing bubble. I still hold global issues and domestic politics close to my heart, but I'm not as concerned with those these days, although they are important.

So, I think I'm going to change my daily habits of which websites I visit. And, the stories and entries I post will probably be much bleaker and harder to read. But we need to be as informed as possible.

Before I leave, I want to give a hearty recommendation to a website called Long Island Bubble. The founder and webmaster discovered my blog a month ago and graciously invited me to join his message board. The website is updated regularly, and the message board is also very informative, with lots of good, informed people. So please visit.


Jericho is on Tuesdays at 10 PM on CBS, and again, I can't recommend it highly enough. It's about post-apocalyptic America (after a series of nuclear bombs go off in major cities), particularly centering around one small town in Kansas called Jericho. I watched Season One months ago on DVD, and while it starts off slow, once it starts, it doesn't stop. And now in its 2nd season, it's more intense than ever. I'm really bummed by "24" not coming back until next January, but this is a nice substitute. There's only five episodes left (it has a shortened season, only seven episodes in all) so watch it. You can also catch the first two episodes (and possibly the first season as well) on CBS's website. So, watch Jericho on Tuesdays, and tell all your friends.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

King of Kong

I didn't post this weekend because I saw the most incredible film, saw it three times actually. It's a documentary called "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters", and I highly recommend it for everyone of all ages. It's basically a David V. Goliath tale, having to do with getting the all-time top score in Donkey Kong. Billy Mitchell had held the all-time DK record for many, many years, and is a semi-celebrity (he's known as Gamer of the Century or something). Steve Wiebe is a regular guy who'd just gotten laid off from his job, and with the spare time available, played Donkey Kong and realized that he was very, very good at it. Bookending this story are a legion of nerd gamers that make up Twin Galaxies, an organization that keeps track of top scores. They clearly favor the Goliath of the story, Mitchell, giving Wiebe yet another huge obstacle to overcome.

I'll leave my summary there, I don't want to spoil too much. Maybe I already did. But anyway, watch this movie. You could never have played a game in your life and still really enjoy it.

Beef Scandal

As most of you probably know, there was a huge recall of beef, the largest ever, actually. And a video was released that led to the recall, of a sick cow being dragged by a forklift. Man, I don't know about you, but I simply can't handle watching something like that. I think I lasted 5 seconds before turning it off. What's more horrifying than the treatment of these animals is that, despite their being sick, their meat is still processed. I can't make clear enough how practically non-existent our regulation on beef is. Read "Fast Food Nation", it gives a terrific picture of our meat industry in America.

Mojo Blog posts on something that was covered in "Fast Food Nation", but bears repeating. You may be asking, "If these sick cows are being killed and their meat is still being sold, who's eating it?" Well, there's no easy way of saying this: Children. Federally-subsidized school lunch programs gets the lowest-quality beef. I can't begin to tell you how inherently depraved and evil that is.

Oh, BTW, there's a funny aside in this article that I didn't know about. After one of the mad cow scares, a meat producer voluntarily offered to test all his cattle for the disease, and the Bush Administration went to court to stop him because it'd make all the other meat producers look bad. In the age of Mad Cow, shouldn't our government be expecting higher standards from meat merchants rather than the lowest possible one?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Now, Top Clinton Aide Wants Delegates to Count

In a funny story that perfectly illustrates the hypocrisy of electoral politics, a top Clinton aide now says that Florida's and Michigan's votes to seat delegates should now count, after voting for rules that stripped both states of their delegates. Of course, this is in response to Hillary falling behind Obama in the race for delegates. I agree that both state's delegates should be able to vote at the convention, the Dems' logic never made sense to me on that one, but the timing is so convenient now.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Wordperfect Sucks

Regardless of what you've seen here in the past, I don't like to hate on anything. I'm pretty much a friendly guy who likes to think the best of things. If something doesn't work, it might well be my fault. But when I bought my last computer 4 years ago, I made in hindsight what was a big error. I had a choice between Microsoft Word and Corel Wordperfect. Since Wordperfect was cheaper (and probably not by much), and I figured a word processor was a word processor, I chose Wordperfect. Boy, do I regret that. I am out of printer paper at home, and am running out of ink. I'm too busy and too cheap to get some. So I usually save my documents on IDrive and print what I need at the campus. But I usually convert my WP files to Microsoft Word, and I forgot to last night. So I came to college today and now I can't print the documents that I need.

Not only that, I'm looking for a job, and sending out resumes. MS Word has so many templates for resumes and everything else, it'll blow your mind. But Wordperfect? Maybe one or two, and they're not very good. My resumes look so much better with Word, my only regret is that I have to go elsewhere to use it.

TV's back

I've been behind the curve on this, which shouldn't be acceptable because I find it important. The WGA has reached an agreement with the producers, meaning that TV as I know it is back. We'll see at least a few more new episodes this year from a lot of our favorite shows. I'm waiting for new episodes of Supernatural and 30 Rock myself.

But not all is roses. There are strong rumors that Fox will be holding back the 7th season of 24 until next January!! Why, oh, why? Fox says that they'll only air 24 nonstop, meaning no delays or reruns. I don't understand that the first 3 seasons (to me, the better seasons) had the schedule of any other TV show, and all of a sudden, it's become mandatory for 24 to have a nonstop barrage of 24 episodes. I could see why that schedule makes sense, but this is a unique situation. It really isn't fair to make the fans wait a whole other year on top of the 9 we've already had to wait. Come on, Fox.

What I'd do, if I was in charge, is air the 8 episodes already in the can in April and May, and then wait until midseason to air the other 16. That way, you placate the fans while not messing too much with this kind of format.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Don't Care if Clemens is Lying

I'm with Dave Winer of the Huffington Post; I couldn't give less of a fuck what Roger Clemens put into his body. So, it begs the question, why has the media invested bottomless resources and time into this story? Or into Laci Peterson's murder, Anna Nicole Smith's death, Heath Ledger's death, Britney Spears' latest breakdown? I could go on and on. When I thought of news and journalism, I thought of events that were actually important and had some kind of effect on our everyday lives. To me, I think of things like our falling dollar, our sinking economy, our two unwinnable wars, our deplorable health care system, things like that. I don't think, and I also don't think most Americans don't look at events like Clemens' alleged steroid use as being massively important events.

Is it worth a news segment? Yes, absolutely. But nonstop, wall-to-wall coverage? No fucking way.

And shame on Congress too. With the events that I mentioned, plus many more that are very important, this is what they're spending their time and taxpayer money on? To ask Roger Clemens whether he used steroids? That is, when they're not spending time figuring out how to protect the telecom companies. Just an unacceptable waste and a serious lack of priorities.

Senate Gives Immunity to Telecom Companies

I've been talking about this for months, and finally there's news, but unfortunately, it is not good. The Senate has voted to give retroactive immunity to telecom companies that knowingly broke the law and violated the civil liberties of millions of Americans by letting the federal government listen in on our phone conversations. It isn't final, yet, I believe that the House and Senate have to meet to write the final legislation; the House does have an amendment to strip retroactive immunity in their bill, so that is good. But who knows if it'll stay there?

Neither Hillary or Obama were there for the vote; although their presences wouldn't have changed the outcome, it smacks of weak leadership and is the reason why anyone who wants to run for president should be forced to cede their seat or office. The Democrats have failed us, again, but what else is new?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Another Example of why I hate Islamofascists

Last week, an American businesswoman in Saudi Arabia was hauled away by their religious Gestapo for sitting at a Starbucks with a man other than her husband; namely, a business partner. She was forced to confess her "sin" and a Saudi judge told her that she was going to "burn in hell." As Bill Maher has said many times, I am intolerant towards intolerance. I embrace diversity and freedom of religion, up to the point where the fringe elements are at work; e.g., when someone straps a bomb to himself and blows up a store, or when religious police are put in place to haul people away, either Saudis or foreigners such as Americans. And the devout Muslims will try to justify repression by saying, "it's our values."

And don't forget that America itself is the biggest supporter of Saudi Arabia. We purchase their oil and keep them in dutch, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. To this day, almost 4,000 Americans have died in Iraq to prop up dictatorships such as these. Why isn't the State Department doing anything about this? A U.S. citizen was assaulted and accosted by these religious fanatics. And what about Starbucks? This act goes against the "Core Values" it talks so much about. Why not pull up stakes and take your business away from countries such as this?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Clerics Campaign Against TV Soaps

This is a reason why a part of me is glad that Bush/Cheney invaded Afghanistan after 9/11. As those who know me will attest to, I am no fan of U.S. military intervention or imperialism in the affairs of other nations. Also, the overt Christianity of Bush and others sends quite a chill up the spine when the invasions of Muslim nations are in question.

However, that doesn't mean that I side with the fanatic Muslims on the other side of the world either. They are oppressive beyond belief, and given the choice between living under the Bush residency or living under the Taliban and Armadi-Douchebag (as Denny Crane so referred to the President of Iran), I'd take the former in a New York minute.

Television soaps have become all the rage in Afghanistan, and now those cranky enemies of fun the Mullahs are aiming to have the government take them away from the people. The Afghan people, God bless them, after living under the repressive yokes of the Taliban, who even banned dancing and chess, have taken to television in a big way. Other than soaps, even Western fare like Lost and 24 have made the jump to Kabul. I wonder how well "24" goes over in a country that's primarily Islamic. And they even censor blur bare legs and arms in "Lost." So the Mullahs regrettably are still yielding some influence.

It's pretty funny; when I say that the Afghan people have taken to television, I really mean it. Since electricity is erratic in Afghanistan, as it is in Iraq (both are occupied by the U.S., that's irony for you), people spend lots of money on fuel to power their generators, so they could watch the soaps. It's so funny how we take electricity for granted here. Imagine how rarely I'd be blogging if I only had electricity 2 or 3 days out of the week. Maybe I've just watched too much TV, because if I had to spend a lot of my money on fuel to watch my shows, I'd just as soon read more books.

The 9/11 Plotters

It's just been announced that six people accused of plotting the events of 9/11 will be facing the death penalty, judging from the outcomes of their trial. This bothers me, and I'm not going to give the arguments on how the death penalty is wrong, and is a grave breach against humanity. If these men were found guilty for the murders of approximately 3,000 people, I couldn't think of a more deserving group I'd want to see hung by their balls. But as these men are Islamofascists, they want to go out as martyrs, just like the hijackers on 9/11 did, just like suicide bombers in the Middle East do.

I think it'd be a far more severe punishment for these men to be tried and be sentenced to life, either staying in Gitmo or being transferred to a Supermax prison. These men don't want to languish, to grow old and die in a prison. So why give them what they want by putting them to death by injection? Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups in that part of the world will make these men look like heroes, and the rest of the world will be pissed off at us for executing them. And for what? To satisfy a temporary bloodlust?

Giving these men life imprisonment goes far above showing our humanity and capacity to be forgiving people. It's about not letting the terrorists win.

Consumerism is a greedy society's religion

I'm not religious in the least, but this article got me. The author's point is that consumerism is rapidly becoming a religion in and of itself, and I'd be very hard-pressed to take issue with that. We scurry to the store whenever we see a good deal. The day after Thanksgiving is probably more of a holy day to some people than Christmas itself.

Take this stimulus package. The people in Washington are expecting to stave off a recession by sending us checks and hoping that we go out and spend. And I have no doubt that many people will do exactly that. That XBox or HDTV is just too hard to pass up, even when you're falling behind on your mortgage or credit cards. Because the compulsion to buy is just too strong, it's like a religious experience in a lot of ways.

According to the House minority speaker, it's "our job" to be good consumers. I thought it was our job to be good citizens, to look out for the welfare of this country and our fellow citizens, and stay vigilant in the affairs of our government. But I guess I'm still old-fashioned in that aspect. Our economic system is just one big Ponzi scheme, and the way to feed it is by spending more money and accumlating more debt. I'll be spending my stimulus on paying down my remaining credit-card bills. Sorry, Washington.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Song of the Day

I haven't really been posting a lot lately, as school's starting to pick up. I studied pretty extensively for a quiz I took today, and I think I did pretty well. I also had to do a lot of reading. So I probably won't be posting that often. I'm going to try at least once a day, but you probably shouldn't expect a lot of multiple, lengthy posts. I also have to spend more time looking for work.

Now and again, my brain is introduced (or re-introduced) to a song and I can't get it out of my head. I'm currently watching the past season of Boston Legal on DVD. It's a great show, I regret that it took me so long to get into it. An episode I saw tonight was particularly well-done. It centered around William Shatner's character, and he had flashbacks to when he was a young lawyer, with his father. The flashbacks were actually scenes from an old TV show that Shatner was in called "The Defenders" and it was integrated into the Boston Legal episode, which I thought was really cool. And the song used in these scenes, to haunting effect, was the classic Billy Joel ballad, "And So It Goes." And now I can't get it out of my head. So have a listen, and be sure to check out Boston Legal.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

David Letterman jokes on Mitt Romney

I found this section on of jokes that David Letterman made about Mitt Romney. And they're quite a lot of them, so Romney must have been a favorite target of Dave's. My favorite: "He looks like a guy on cable urging you to tap your home equity".

Forget the stimulus. Most people think we should leave Iraq.

In a new poll, most people believe that leaving Iraq would give a big shot in the arm to our economy. It makes so much sense. You know how much money we'd save by getting out of there? It'd dwarf any possible stimulus the government can give to us. It's all about priorities.

And this can't be good for McCain, who's running on Iraq. Whichever Democrat runs is going to use the "It's the economy, stupid" routine like in 1992 and they'll win.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Spies' Battleground Turns Virtual

According to U.S. intelligence, terrorists are using the program Second Life to organize and move money. Well, it looks like virtual worlds are going to become the government's next battleground in the "War on Terror." Which is a shame, since I do believe that virtual worlds are a new frontier and the government is using terrorism as a threshold in trying to control it. Are we going to see concentration camps and waterboarding here too?


I usually don't link to the same blog or source twice in a row, but Liz from the Contemplation of Preponderance blog posts some of the most profound things that I read on the net. They really get you thinking. This latest post is mostly about power, and ultimately, the responsibility that comes with it. She talks about the countries in Europe that she's visited, like England and France, that were empires pretty much like us. They had armies and navies situated in places all over the world, and spent much in blood and treasure trying to stabilize and keep them. I can't speak as to how the general mood of the people was back in those days, but now, from the perspective of Liz and other things I've read and seen, they seem fairly content. Maybe part of the reason for that is that they don't have that kind of presence in the world anymore. While having control of a part of the world and its resources may seem nice on the surface, it can also pose quite a burden.

Just look at the troubles we've gotten into trying to police and control the world. Our budget keeps rising and rising due to our military presence in Iraq and many other countries. Blowback was the reason for 9/11. I keep going back to an earlier blog I made, in which I quoted some kind of military general or commander after the Iran mini-incident last month (where one little Iraqi boat was firing on an American battleship in Middle Eastern waters). He said something to the effect of "Incidents like that are why we're situated there." And I keep thinking, "well, would this stuff still be happening if we weren't there?" I just believe that empire leads to far more problems than solutions for all involved, especially the country that's doing the policing, in this case ours. And don't start on the humanitarian factors involved, or how this and that people are living under a brutal dictator, and it's somehow up to us to liberate them. If we invaded every country guilty of human rights violations, at least, the ones we aren't indirectly supporting, we'd be occupying half the world. Well, we kind of are anyway, right?

I think the day when the United States stops being an empire is the day we become a better, richer and safer country to live in.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Facing Reality

Liz from the Contemplation of Preponderance blog raises a point I hadn't thought about. As McCain is a "moderate" Republican (not in my eyes, but in a lot of other peoples'), unsupported by conservatives in his party, a McCain presidency with a Democratic Congress might not be that bad. Hillary or Obama as president with a Democratic Congress cannot possibly be good, as we need less government, not more.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tupperware and Tasers

This is an interesting article on the increasing popularity of tasers among women, looking for a way to protect themselves. Now, those of you reading may be thinking, "oh, that liberal Jeff is going to rail on against tasers and how they should be banned, and how we shouldn't have the right to protect ourselves." Which is only half-right. I think having a taser to protect yourself is pretty cool, I totally support that. It sounds much more effective than old stand-bys like mace.

But the 2nd half of the article shows a very interesting societal flaw in the use of tasers. There weren't any tasering incidents described that involved its use by a private citizen. So that tells me the people buying them for personal use are being very reasonable and showing reasonable discretion before using them. But there is a large group who aren't using them reasonably. They are using tasers as a purely abusive and humiliating measure, and in the worst cases, it's ended in death. These are the people who the Taser was originally invented for, law enforcement. You just see example after example of police officers totally abusing their discretionary powers in using these tasers. Every situation described in the article wasn't a life-and-death emergency situation. All that was required in order to defuse the situation was a little calm and reason by the officers. But I guess that's too difficult and time-consuming for them. Better to just tase the person.

The police officer is typically one of the pillars of the average community, a person we can trust to do his job in a fair manner. So when you can trust a housewife with a potentially deadly weapon before you can trust the police officer, something smells rotten in Denmark.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Unmasking of Colin Powell

I never bought into Colin Powell as being this totally honorable, squeaky-clean person that so many have painted him as over the years. That cynical feeling only intensified when I saw him as Bush's leading cheerleader for invading Iraq. It made sense for Bush/Cheney to use him as the spokesman. Powell's reputation preceded him, and people would think twice about questioning him or what he said.

This is the 5-year anniversary of Powell's presentation to the United Nations on how Iraq was hiding their WMDs and not cooperating with inspectors. At the time, everyone was praising him for his air-tight case. I didn't buy it, Bush was going to invade Iraq no matter what. If Saddam had had his WMDs (if they existed, that is) lined up on the Baghdad Airport runway, our soldiers would still be there today.

This is a really good post from the Mother Jones blog, that will hopefully be re-printed in their magazine. It goes back to that day, and shows many ways in which Powell was knowingly misleading all of us. He claims that he was the one who was "misled" by others; this painstaking research shows that he knew what he was doing. Powell has always prided himself on being a soldier and a "reluctant warrior." What kind of soldier and warrior puts other people in harm's way on the pretext of lies?

The Boom Was a Bust For Ordinary People

I really recommend reading a book called "Nickel and Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich. It's about the working poor in America and it's a noteworthy book because it was published in 2000, at the height of the dot-com boom. While there is finally awareness by even the elite that the working class are in big trouble, and that this so-called boom that America's had has completely passed us by, Ehrenreich was blowing the whistle 8 years ago. And as she points out in this column for the Washington Post, with the gains in productivity over the past few years, there were no increases in wage. If anything, counting inflation, we are making even less. The Walmart model's broken us.

At times, I feel like our economy is something straight out of "The Matrix." At first glance, it seems fine, you buy into the picture of prosperity and the American adages like "you can make it if you put your mind to it" and "pull yourself up by your bootstraps." But when you look further, and see the pieces of code that don't quite fit, than you know better. Ehrenreich notes a CNN poll that says that 57 percent of Americans think that we're already in a recession. Economists believe that we're ignorant and don't know what a recession is. But the reality is, we don't judge what a recession is based on theories made inside an ivory tower. We judge it based on what we have (or, in many cases, don't have) in our wallets and pocketbooks. We judge it based on the fact that as prices rise for the essentials, our wages never quite rise with them. If you were to base an economy on those standards, rather than what Wall Street tells you, we've been in a recession for a fairly long time.

Monday, February 4, 2008


I thought Barack Obama was the only candidate consistently talking about "change" in the White House. Apparently, I was mistaken:

On the Candidates

Before I went to bed last night, I wrote a long post about John Edwards and how he was marginalized, leaving two corporate-approved candidates, that being Obama and Hillary Clinton. I didn't think about this, but am I the only one who can appreciate the delicious, rich irony that out of the 3 top-tier candidates for the Democratic nomination, a black man, a woman, and a white guy, the most progressive one was the white guy, that being Edwards? One of those ironies you just have to love.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

John Edwards' Hidden Problem

Approximately a month ago, I changed my political party. Being an independent upon registering as a voter, I registered as a Democrat in 2003 because I wanted to vote for the presidential candidate whose campaign I was directing in Suffolk County, Dennis Kucinich. That came and went, and I never changed back. I'd always been intending to, but never found it that important. But after seeing this campaign, and these two people of privilege who've come out ahead of the pack, while pushing more deserving candidates to the side, combined with their Republican-lite stance on most issues, I'd finally had enough and changed back to being an independent.

But, I do have to say, if John Edwards had managed to stay in this race, I think I would have regretted my decision. It will soon be Super Tuesday here, and only registered Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary in New York. So, I would have regretted not being able to vote for Edwards. But he dropped out last week, so now I don't have to worry about it.

While I campaigned for Kucinich in 2004, and find him a good man, he'd become a vanity candidate in my opinion, and so I didn't really have any concerns about not supporting him or voting for him. He'd get his one percent or whatever, and I'd be disappointed if I'd wasted my vote or my time. He has also since dropped out. But Edwards was such a breath of fresh air. He talked about class and poverty, and a lot of other issues that affected most Americans, and he meant it. He didn't seem to just be giving lip service to us. And he took a big risk by running a campaign centered on poverty. That's a large part of why I found him sincere. And, most importantly, he was "electable." I hate that media buzzword, but it was true. He was telegenic, well-spoken, and good-looking.

But it goes back to that issue of his running a campaign based on class. That's a dangerous position to take, and always fatal. People talk about this being a historic, monumental election. A black man and a woman are the Democratic Party's two top, and remaining, candidates for President. But take a closer look. One went to Harvard, the other went to Yale. Hillary is of course, wife of former President Clinton, who had a Republican presidency. And as for Obama, he's been more centered towards campaigning for president than serving his constituents as Senator of Illinois , which he's held for what, 2 years? All I hear from both candidates is fluff about "hope", "change", "experience", etc. No substance or specifics about what either will do if he or she were president. And if Hillary wins, and faces McCain in the general, the most important issue for a lot of Americans, Iraq, is off the table.

The only top-tier candidate who has spoken on substantive issues, and more importantly, backed them up, was Edwards. He should be right there with the other two, to this very day. And he is not, due to a large effort to marginalize him, mainly by the media but also by other Democrats. That I have no doubt.

This is a fantastic piece
by Sam Smith of Undernews on what happened to Edwards, and the sabotage of him and other like-minded candidates by the Democratic majority. I will add one more thing before I finish. A few years ago, there was a book written called "What's the Matter with Kansas?" It was about how voters in Kansas, many of whom were poor and lower-class, consistently voted against their interests by electing Republicans, who were said to often work against the interests of the very Kansans who voted for them. I think this can be said for the Democrats as well in this election.

Awhile back, when I was working as an activist and starting an organization, a good friend of mine who was very progressive said that she'd certainly vote for Hillary if she ran, which was a certainty even then. Despite the fact that Hillary pretty much worked against my friend's interests in every way possible (she voted for invading Iraq, the bankruptcy bill, free trade, Patriot Act, etc.), she was still planning to vote for her on the basis that she was a woman. I know there are a lot of women who'll vote for Hillary for that alone, and a lot of people of color who'll vote for Obama on that same factor, and I think it's a shame. Gender and race aside, you know the only reason those two are in the final lap right now is because they're sticking to the vague generalities while not talking about wealth and outsourcing and consumer debt.

A political reporter from Rolling Stone was on Bill Maher's show this week, and he was covering the LA debate between Obama and Clinton. He was looking down on Obama and Hillary supporters yelling chants at each other, and holding up signs boasting of "hope" and "change." He then said, "some of these people will be here four years from now, again yelling for change because whoever wins is going to disappoint them." If only we had more cynicism from the electoral press corps.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Copyright law should distinguish between commercial and cultural uses

This is an excellent article from the Guardian on how copyright law needs to be changed, and more specifically, how there needs to be a distinction between commercial copyright and cultural copyright. By cultural copyright today, the writer means things like fan fiction and someone putting a slide show of family pictures to a song on Youtube.

I have heard of utterly ridiculous things being done by these corporations to stop "violations" of copyright. For example, telling a pre-school that painted Disney characters on the side of the building that they had to paint over it because Disney owns them. Or "Happy Birthday" not being recited in public places because AOL/Time Warner owns the copyright. In the late 90s, I remember Fox being pretty zealous about its properties, sending cease-and-desist letters to Simpsons fan websites and someone who made a Mod for the "Doom" game with Aliens.

To me, there is a significant difference between someone storing movies on an Internet server and someone who expresses his or her love for a creative work (whether copyrighted or not) by writing a story or making a tribute video. The former should be held legally accountable, and the latter should be left alone.

The Pirate Bay

I'm pretty sure I've blogged on this before. There's a file-sharing site in Sweden called Pirate Bay that is used by a lot of people, 10-15 million. They download movies, games, and of course, music. And of course, the MPAA, the RIAA, all the AA's that aren't the AA (Alcoholics Anomymous) are getting the authorities to crack down on them. Now, the 4 men who run it are being indicted for conspiracy to break copyright law.

Again, let me express my views on piracy. I'm very upset at the power these large corporations wield in being able to copyright creative works for near-eternity. After a certain, reasonable period of time, they should be in the public domain. I'm also pissed off at the vindictive ways of the RIAA; they've sued people who've had MP3s on their computer and have won, in the process wiping these people out financially and burying them under large fines mandated by the courts. They have sued college students, 12-year olds, dead people, people who don't own a computer.

But, on the other token, I look down on piracy, and pirates. I do look at anyone who burns the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie or the new album from My Chemical Romance without paying for it as no better than a thief who'd shove it in his jacket at the local Best Buy. I also find it wasteful. You appreciate something so much more when you spend your hard-earned money on it. It has no meaningful value when you got it by going on the Internet.

Back to this case. While I would understand and sympathize with the actions of the AA's for shutting down people with servers who are providing millions of music and movie files, Pirate Bay isn't doing this. They're merely providing links to the forbidden, unlawful material. Isn't that what Google and other search engines do, provide links to stuff you're looking for? And I've come across file-sharing sites and MP3's on Google before. But I bet the AA's wouldn't dare go after Google.

So the results of this case would be pretty interesting. Either way, it'll prove why the AA's response is just like whack-a-mole on a much larger scale. For every one of these sites that they take down, 5 more spring right back up in its place. This is a brave new world for the media, and no matter how reactionary the AA's are, they're in their death throes.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Could This Be a Conflict of Interest?

This is another good post at the Contemplation of Preponderance blog, concerning the recent interest rate drop and the deregulation of banking. After the Depression, Congress passed a law requiring the separation of investment banking and commercial banking. In 1999, it got repealed. Liz explains some of the results and what's still happening. Although I can't understand economics for the life of me, she explains it well.

Long Island Bubble

Upon seeing my entry yesterday on my starting of a Yahoo! group devoted to unemployment and the recession, a visitor to the blog offered an invitation to his (or her) group, Long Island Bubble. It's a really good website, very informative. A lot of the stuff goes over my head, but it might resonate with some of you, especially if you own a home. So please visit, and don't forget to sign up for the forum.

Montel Williams

I don't think I've ever seen an episode of Montel Williams' talk show. I've heard of him, have seen him on TV, just never saw his show. A few days ago, I read in the paper that his show was ending after 17 years. Was it low ratings, his MS was getting worse, something else? I didn't know, and particularly didn't care, as I'm not into talk shows.

But then I found this video on DailyKos:

I believe that this was on Saturday. So, mere days after this, his talk show just ends, after 17 years? Several Fox affiliates had declined to pick up the show, from my understanding, and that probably led to the cancellation. And this occurred on a Fox News program.

If it is true, that the cancellation of his show was a retaliatory move for criticizing Fox News's (and in general, the media's) coverage of the war, that is beyond disgraceful. Williams was in the military for 2 decades. If anyone has a right to call out the media, shouldn't it be him?

Williams did little more than echo how I and countless other Americans feel. I remember when 9/11 happened, and I was watching the various news channels for days on end. And one of the recurring comments I kept hearing from news anchors, reporters, guests was that nothing would be the same after 9/11. And they counted the media in that, as in their coverage would change significantly. You weren't going to hear as much about killer sharks and kidnappings, but the hard, relevant news that Americans were going to expect. Our media coverage, and the way that the news is covered, would not be the same.

And they were right, it wouldn't be the same. In the years following 9/11, leading up to the present, when it comes to providing significant coverage of current events and world issues, our media has gotten even worse. From Laci Peterson, Natalie Holloway, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, to Heath Ledger. All of these people, who, let's face it, have no significance in our lives, have gotten wall-to-wall coverage. When Ledger died last week, judging on the news coverage, you'd think the world stopped turning. That's all they were talking about.

Just to clarify, I'm not talking about tabloids, or gossip websites, or Entertainment Tonight. I'm talking about mainstream news outlets, I'm talking about Fox, CNN, ABC News, etc. These are news sources that should be giving these individuals' lives (and deaths) scant coverage, at best. The one guy on Fox News didn't even guess correctly how many U.S. soldiers died in Iraq this month, Montel had to correct him. Why do we not know the names of 5 U.S. soldiers who were killed in action in Iraq, hell, one name would suffice; and yet we can know every last detail of how and when Heath Ledger died, or which hospital Britney Spears is staying at?

So, good for Montel. He's a hero, and it sadly seems that being a hero and acting without fear of consequences in speaking out, cost him his job.

Anyway, a few opinions on the segment. Did anyone else hate that blonde lady? First, she tried justifying the media's responsibility by saying that it's just "feeding the beast." So this woman (and no doubt, her partners on the show) look at their viewers as being one huge beast. They try justifying their coverage by saying that that's what the masses want. And it's bullshit. I've never had a discussion with anybody, and I've never been witness to a conversation, where Health Ledger or Spears or Paris Hilton were the topics of conversation. Not to say that they aren't talked about; but for example, when Ledger died, I'd think the conversation would go like this: "Hey, did you hear Heath Ledger died?" "Yeah, that sucked, he was a good actor, what a waste."

So I think media coverage of an issue or a person should be centered on how much likely discussion they're going to get. I've had many discussions on issues like Iraq, our endangered freedom after 9/11, global warming, and I've also heard many discussions. And they could be quite lengthy and diversified in terms of opinions. So why not spend resources and time on those issues? I could give you many reasons the media won't do this, but this blog's been long enough.

Oh, and one last thing. Did you hear the guy at the end say to Montel, "but he (Ledger) was an icon." Get the hell out of here, LOL. Ledger was a good actor, but he was far from an icon. He's not a James Dean. In 50 years, there won't be many people who can tell you who Heath Ledger was.

Okay, this is really the last thing. Did anyone else laugh when Montel was talking about the soldiers and how he was in the military, and the one reporter said "I was embedded", lol.

Bush's war on journalists continues

Here's the latest example of how the federal government intimidates journalists who dare to seek the truth and tell the American people about it:

WASHINGTON — A federal grand jury has issued a subpoena to a reporter of The New York Times, apparently to try to force him to reveal his confidential sources for a 2006 book on the Central Intelligence Agency, one of the reporter’s lawyers said Thursday.
The subpoena was delivered last week to the New York law firm that is representing the reporter, James Risen, and ordered him to appear before a grand jury in Alexandria, Va., on Feb. 7.
Mr. Risen’s lawyer, David N. Kelley, who was the United States attorney in Manhattan early in the Bush administration, said in an interview that the subpoena sought the source of information for a specific chapter of the book “State of War.”
The chapter asserted that the C.I.A. had unsuccessfully tried, beginning in the Clinton administration, to infiltrate Iran’s nuclear program. None of the material in that chapter appeared in The New York Times.