Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I'm Still Here

I realized that I haven't blogged in awhile, as tends to happen sometimes. But I think this is my longest period of inaction yet, 10 days since my last post. My apologies, I've just been very busy with the program that I'm in. I had two exams last week, and a very difficult assignment to hand in. But thankfully that's past, and the semester is almost over. So hopefully I'll have some more time to devote to blogging, which I have missed terribly.

So as a result, I haven't been able to keep up with happenings here and around the globe. Gas prices continue to climb, and it downright scares me what it's doing to food supply. There are already shortages due to the climbing prices. There have been riots in other countries, and here, I believe that places like Sam's Club are rationing items like rice. There's a certain limit you can buy.

Another thing is that the "scandal" surrounding Obama's minister, Wright, has resurfaced. The more I see these kinds of news items, the more I feel that the media is going to do to Obama what they did to Gore in 2000. Back then, they skewered Gore over all these supposedly outrageous things that he said. Like he helped to "invent" the Internet, that he was the inspiration for Love Story, etc. Of course, it turned out later that he was either misquoted, or that in fact, he wasn't that far off. I believe that the writer of "Love Story" had stated that Gore did inspire "Love Story." But I don't know, it was a long time ago. I just remembered the media just did not like Gore and pulverized him every chance they got. But they loved Dubya though.

So I feel they're doing the same thing to Obama, with Reverend Wright and the "bitter" comment replacing Gore's so-called claims. To this point, it's barely made a dent in his popularity. No one outside of Beltway media was offended by the whole "bitter" thing, in fact, many agreed with it. And why shouldn't they? If working-class voters are not bitter over their living standards declining and their opportunties limiting over the years, there's something wrong with them. And now Hillary's saying that Obama is "out of touch" with working-class voters. That might well be the case, but what makes her in touch? One went to Harvard, the other to Yale. They're pretty much the same person, if you ask me.

And what did Reverend Wright say that outraged everyone so, and which prompted Obama to distance himself from Wright, after initially defending him last month? He again said that the U.S. government is responsible for HIV. I'm not an expert, I really don't know how HIV and AIDS came about, but he also said that we were behind Tuskagee (I spelled that wrong, I'm pretty sure). And he's right, if our government was behind that, how can we dismiss his belief on how HIV was devised, on its face?

And what drew the most fire, was when he talked about terrorism, and how when we've committed so much of it, it's only a matter of time before it comes to our doorstep (i.e., 9/11). And the media's up in arms about his statement that we've committed acts of terrorism. Which, of course, is a ridculous statement by Wright. Just look at our foreign policy record after World War II, and all the interventions that we took part in. All the influencing and downright overthrows of governments the world over who didn't see things in the same light as our government.

I'm sure most people would find Wright's comment offensive, because no one is more ignorant about U.S. foreign policy than the average American. It may be considered a stretch to refer to our foreign policy as "terrorist", but his overall premise was right, IMO. Why do you feel radical Islamists don't come after, say, Switzerland? The fact that they don't have military bases in their homeland might have something to do with it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Pentagon's Hidden Hand

I always like reading lengthy pieces of first-rate journalism, and this article from Fridays' Times is exactly that. It's about the military "analysts" that you see on TV. They're paid by the networks to give their "opinion" on the war. But these same analysts often have business interests that stand to profit from wars like the one in Iraq. Also, they're coached by the Pentagon on how to respond to questions about the war.

This is nothing new. I read this excellent book a few years ago, it was published a year or so after the beginning of the war. I'm at a loss as to what it was called, I thought it was called "Weapons of Mass Distraction", but couldn't find it on Amazon. But anyway, alternative media has reported on this. As much as the Times has published this great piece, they've been as guilty as any other mainstream media outlet for marching in line and parroting Bush's talking points.

But anyway, read this article if you have the time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dear Mr. Bernanke

I usually don't post an entry from someone else's blog in its entirety, but this is simply too good, I have to make an exception. Contemplation of Preponderance is one of my favorite blogs to read, you really should check it out. This is a letter to Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Fed, on the recent bailout of Bear Stearns. And yes, it is a "bailout", I don't care what Bernanke says.

Dear Mr. Bernanke,
I've written several politicians and a few unelected officials, and now it's your turn. Please forgive me for not writing sooner. I think, perhaps, I could have helped. You have defended your decision regarding Bear Stearns and stated the action of the Feds was not a "bail out," but rather an action that had to occur to prevent the collapse of this huge financial presence. Your statement, as I read it in the news, indicates the entire economy would have been shaken if Bear Stearns had declared the bankruptcy that was imminent by the middle of March of this year. I realize I am not a math major, nor do I have a doctorate in economics, but . . . if Bear Stearns was at the point of bankruptcy and the stock value had plummeted from $60.00 a share to $2.00 a share, the fact of the matter regarding Bear Stearns is Bear Stearns became insolvent and unstable. Your response was a simple matter of printing more money to "strengthen" the weakened, nearly dead financial institution. The problem is, printing money and giving it to another financial entity to bail out the bankrupt bank, doesn't change the fact that the investment bank was bankrupt. And while we are discussing investments and rescue, please let me introduce you to the man on the street, not Wall Street, but simply the man that is trying to keep his investment called his home, and his stability called his job, and his security called a stable economy. Why does Bear Stearns merit so much more assistance to the tune of $250 billion? How many home mortgages would that amount of money helped save? Why do the tax payers have to keep working without hope of light at the end of the tunnel to fund the stability of Wall Street? Why, as an economist, can you not see that Wall Street has become a place of investing in money rather than investing in products or a stable economy? Wall Street is not funded to simply keep the economy in perpetual motion and you know, dropping the interest rates, and funding the big banks is nothing more than bringing the game of MONOPOLY to economic reality. The only difference Mr. Bernanke, between printing money for JP Chase & Morgan Co. to purchase Bear Stearns and counterfeiting, is the fact that you have been appointed to say it's legal to print money. The interest rates have plummeted, the value of the average American's investments have dropped dramatically, and you are not choosing to use the term "recession," while the rest of us are living the reality. The fact that you are not using the term "recession" makes me wonder one of two things. Are we already passed the point of recession and living the beginning of the "D" word, Depression . . . or are you simply out of touch with the common concerns and problems of the average American? Are you aware of the financial impact of filling a gas tank? Do you have any idea of the sticker shock, that continues weekly at the grocery store? Since you have spared Bear Stearns, to spare the rest of us, just when will that gracious decision to indirectly rescue the rest of us, by financing the purchase of Bear Stearns affect the average American in a positive economical way?
Thank you for your time and attention in this matter.
A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. a Proverb of Holy Scripture

Saturday, April 12, 2008

We have the worst income inequality in the nation

A new study from the Economic Policy Institute has a state-by-state analysis of income trends. According to them, New York has the worst income inequality of all 50 states. The top 5% of income-generating families make 15.4 times the income of the bottom 20 percent of families. I'm sure that we're probably in good company, as in many states aren't that far off from us, but still, not a distinction to be proud of. Here is the link:

Main page, with links to all 50 states and their measure of inequality among the richest and poorest families:

Friday, April 11, 2008

Vote Ian for the North Babylon Library Board

Ian Wilder, a friend of the blog, is running for a position on the North Babylon Library's board. So, if anyone who visits here happens to live in the Babylon area, please consider voting for him at the library on April 15th. His letter is below.

Dear Friend,

As you may know, I am running for North Babylon Library Board. If you could take just a minute to forward this email to someone you know who lives there, it would help me immensely. In a library board election, the number of people who vote is small enough that just a few additional votes can make all the difference. I would ask that you send this email to a friend, so that they can come out to vote for me on Tuesday, April 15, 2008 between 1pm - 9pm at the North Babylon Library, 815 Deer Park Avenue, North Babylon, NY.

In addition to my community activism work, I have done other non-profit work. I am in my second term as the Treasurer for my co-op, Fairfield Commons. Being on the co-op board has made me want to be connected to the larger North Babylon community by joining the library board. The work I have done for the co-op is similar to the functions of a library board member: making the library budget, making library hiring decisions; overseeing library expenditures; and setting library policy.

I have also served on a number of other nonprofit boards: Amityville Chamber of Commerce; The Other Economic Summit/USA; and Homecoming, Coming Home to Long Island. As an attorney, I have been called upon to occasionally advise other nonprofits.

Again, the election is on April 15, 2008 from 1-9pm at the North Babylon Library. I would really appreciate if you could get your friends here to come down to pull the lever for me. I can always be contacted at this email ( or 631-422-4702.

Thank you
Ian Wilder

Consumer Confidence Crashes

Consumer confidence has dropped to a new low of 29.5, the lowest since the index began six years ago. This is a good article that shows the areas that are hitting consumers hard and keeping them from spending. Key are the continued slashing of jobs and the rising prices of gas. News 12 was on when I was eating breakfast this morning, and the business reporter was talking about how Linens and Things is filing for Chapter 11, some airline's going bankrupt, Bed Bath and Beyond got their credit rating downgraded, and he said that the one "bright light" is that credit card companies like Mastercard are reporting higher-than-expected earnings. One of the reporters then asked him, "how can that be considered a bright light, if that means that more people are using their credit cards to pay for a pack of gum?"

Thursday, April 10, 2008

See No Evil, Hear No Evil

Every now and again, I make a great find. I was in Target earlier, just picking up the necessaries (and a few luxeries, although I had to put some back due to my money crunch and the economy). On my way out, I looked in the DVD section for the hell of it. I'm a big-time DVD hound, but I haven't bought many of them lately. I go to the library a lot and take out DVD's from there, so I don't spend a lot of time with my own. Anyway, I see the usual suspects, they always tend to have the same selection. I was kind of looking for a movie I saw recently, I Heart Huckabee's, which I really liked. I didn't see it, but my mind guided me there for a reason. In the comedy section, there was one copy (yes, just one) of one of my favorite comedies: a gem called "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" (1989) with Gene Wilder and the late Richard Pryor. They made 3 movies together (4 if you count "Another You", which I heard was terribly awful, and Pryor was already stricken with the effects of MS at that time if I recall correctly), and everyone talks about "Stir Crazy" and "Silver Streak" as their pinnacle. "SNEHNE" is kind of like the black sheep, and that's a shame, as I think it's hillarious.

So many great laughs in this one. Pryor and Wilder work very well off each other. As a terrific bonus, you'll see Kevin Spacey in one of his first roles, and he has a horrible European accent. It was just released on DVD last year, and regrettably, it's bare-bones. No special features or deleted scenes. But it's still well worth the money, I got it for 8 dollars, you probably won't see it for more than ten. If you do, get it, you won't regret it.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Tet Happened, and No One Cared

This is a very interesting column from Frank Rich of the New York Times, on the latest happenings of Iraq and how warped a view of Iraq that Mr. McCain has. I'll post the last 2 paragraphs, as they are key:

“We’re succeeding,” Mr. McCain said after his last trip to Iraq. “I don’t care what anybody says.” Again, it’s the last sentence that’s accurate. When General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testify before Congress again this week — against the backdrop of a million-Iraqi, anti-American protest called by Mr. Sadr — Mr. McCain will ram home all this “success” no matter the facts.
The difference between the Democrats and Mr. McCain going forward is clear enough: They want to find a way out of the morass, however provisional and imperfect, and he equates staying the disastrous course with patriotism. Mr. McCain’s doomed promise of military “victory” in Iraq is akin to Wile E. Coyote’s perpetual pursuit of the Road Runner, with much higher carnage. This isn’t patriotism. As the old saying goes, doing the same thing over and over again and hoping you’ll get a different result is the definition of insanity.
That quote from McCain, if nothing else, symbolizes the true hubris of his campaign, as well as the current occupants of the White House. Like any religious or ideological fanatic, they won't let any number of facts, no matter how substantial or overwhelming, get in the way of what they want to believe.
But I do disagree with Mr. Rich on something, and that's his attack on Obama and Clinton for distorting what McCain said about our forces occupying Iraq for the next hundred years. What he really said was that he'd want our forces being based in Iraq, like they are in Japan and South Korea. That is, as long as they weren't being attacked, or wounded, or killed. First of all, even thinking there's a possibility that our forces could have a benign presence in Iraq is absurd. It's delusional. Those other 2 countries, as well as the others in which we've had long-term presences are, weren't fracationized, Balken-like states like Iraq is. They don't have angry Muslims (be it Shiite, Shia, Sunni, whatever) pissed off at us for turning their land into a big fiefdom. Second, even if this was a possible scenario, is it something that's really desirable? Even a military presence in a country free of war like Japan, I'm sure, is pretty expensive. Finances aside, isn't our presence all over the world giving these groups the ammuniation they need to raise the money and the followers that they require to plan attacks against us?
So, to break it down, attacking the two candidates for distorting what McCain said is grasping at straws, as what he actually said is no better. He'll be Bush III, with a foreign policy that'll be "Bush on steroids", as Buchanan said.

No Rights for Airline Passengers

This is a very good article from John Dean, who was President Nixon's lead counsel. It discusses how as a passenger on an airplane, your rights are non-existent. There are stories, including one from Mr. Dean personally, of people being detained on these airplanes for hours (in one case, it was a 9-hour wait). There's no requirement for these airlines to provide waste service, food and beverages, or electricity. There are groups filing suit in courts and calling for a passengers' bill of rights. So far, this has met with resistance by Republican courts, who'll always side with big business. Another factor is 9/11. Prior to that day, Congress was holding hearings on this very issue.

The number of people involved in these incidents who have actually voiced their complaints publicly or have sued has been very few, surprising considering that there are probably thousands out there. I have been on a few flights, after 9/11, and I'm very thankful that I've never had to go through that kind of experience. I really don't understand how, when these people are being detained, they can just sit there and at best, complain about it. Having to sit in that kind of suffocating atmosphere, bunched up with people, I'd go nuts. I really don't know how these people could have endured.

Friday, April 4, 2008

And You Think We're Fat?

For quite a few years now, there's been talk here and there about how many of us here in the U.S. are overweight, if not obese. We love our fatty fast foods, and picking them up at the drive through in our cars. So we're not walking, exercising, we're eating crap food, and we have a weight epidemic. But there's one country that's not far behind, and may even surpass us as the most obese nation, and that's our neighbor to the north, Mexico.

Due to the influx of processed food that's entered the country and its supermarkets, 71 percent of Mexican males are overweight, with 66 percent of females. In addition, diabetes is now Mexico's leading cause of death.

What I noticed in this article, is that around 20 years ago, the rate of overweight Mexican adults was less than 10 percent. So it's increased by 6 or 7 times in 2 decades. Of course, the purveyors of fast food and "liquid candy", like McDonald's, KFC, and Pepsi, play a huge part in this. But I also feel a monumental shift has occured, not just in Mexico, but in the U.S. and possibly other parts of the world as well. In that 20 years ago, in Mexico, the experts were concerned with hunger. Poverty and hunger went hand-in-hand in those days, and it no doubt still does in some cases. However, you can go to any poor neighborhood in the United States, be it in Mississippi, California or New York, and see people who are significantly overweight, or even obese.

Because it's become easy for people to get their hands on this shit, this garbage. It's pre-made, processed, and it's cheap. Look at the prices of more healthier fare, vegetables and organic food. Are these kinds of stores even in poor neighborhoods? Forgive me, I'm not an expert on this subject by any stretch, I just find it interesting that I see plenty of fat people, be they rich or poor. The only bone-thin people I see are the ones who want it that way, like teenaged girls and celebs.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Sadr calls for a million person march against U.S. occupation

As this occupation of Iraq has taken root and has deepened, I've just gotten more and more confused. I can't keep track of the players, what their interests are, I don't know the length of Iran's involvement, I'm not clear on what "The Awakening" is. In a just war, it should always be clear who are the white hats and who are the black hats.

Last week, there was a battle that took to the streets, between Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and the Iraq forces, trained by the U.S., and a Shiite cleric, Sadr, and his legion of followers, concentrated in the city of Basra. Despite the assistance of the U.S. military, Maliki's forces were only able to fight to a standstill with those of Sadr's. After behind-the-scenes politicking that apparently involved Iran, Sadr called a truce, and that's proceeded to put quite a bit of egg on Maliki's face.

That's basically what's been going on. And now Sadr has called for a march of a million strong on the city of Najaf, to coincide with the 5th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq. Here is what the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, said about it in a briefing:

"If his intention is to get a whole lot of people together and go and make trouble in Najaf, I don't think that is going to be very popular".
It's telling that after the WMD hoax was exposed for the fraud that it was, Bush and co. began to emphasize how we had to invade Iraq to get rid of the dictator and to give freedom and democracy for the Iraqi people. But when a popular cleric organizes a march that could draw a very large crowd of Iraqis who oppose our presence there, he's getting "a whole lot of people together to go and make trouble."

Interview with Jesse Ventura on Larry King

I had no idea that Ventura was on Larry King; I don't tend to watch King's show. But I found it on Youtube, it's in six parts, and here they are for your viewing. I heartily recommend it, as no one can really be as blunt as Jesse Ventura when it comes to our political system. I was your typical apolitical teenager, and Ventura's candidacy for the governorship of Minnesota, and his subsequent victory, helped turn that around. He does indeed have some alternative, even dangerous ideas (to the status quo elite anyway), and his lack of hestitation in outlining those ideas, and expressing them proudly, certainly opened my eyes.

I do recommend reading his two books, "I Ain't Got Time to Bleed" (his autobiography) and "Do I Stand Alone?" (a treatise on his views on many political issues). He also has a new book out, "Don't Start the Revolution Without Me", that I fully plan to read at the first opportunity. This is a very good interview, the only part I'm very unhappy about is that King (or his producers) felt the need to have the talking head pundits on during the last third of the program. The interview was going great, I was learning a lot, and it got torpedoed by these know-nothing asses who were spouting the line of their respective party. But then again, that might have been the intention all along. You can't let a man like Ventura speak his mind for too long.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Musings on a Wednesday Evening

I don't know, just lately, now and then I'm up to blogging not on a particular issue or on something I find on the 'net, but things that I witness while living my life. Like today. Today, I went on a trip with several people in the Legal Society at the college I attend, to the court in Islip. In a way, I really wasn't up to going, as it's criminal court and I'm looking to go into civil law. But at least one of my courses is giving extra credit, and it's not like I have anything better to do with my day.

The first thing I see is this cavalcade of cars and trucks, there had to be close to 10 of them. They were the vehicles of students going on this trip. No one was carpooling; the lady I went with offered, but only two students (I was one of them) took her up on it. Not that I had much of a choice, as anyone who knows me can attest to. But I got a first-hand glimpse of how wasteful we are. I'm a firm believer in global warming, and that we have to come together and act immediately. On top of that, you have gas heading towards $3.50 a gallon, and it'll soon be $4. By joining together and maybe taking, say, 3 or 4 cars instead of 9 or 10, that makes a huge difference when it comes to the amount of gas that we use and that we have to spend the next time we fill up. And of course, it's good for the environment too. I think it's rooted in this belief of independence that we seem to have, and that we're somehow ceding it if we accept or look for the help of others. Don't worry, we're not going to turn into socialists if we ride with someone.

The court was okay. I always feel a little uncomfortable when I go to one, as you have to go through a metal detector and stuff. Several colleagues had to take off their shoes. It just feels so militarized, I guess you'd put it. Police everywhere. I guess you have to expect it in a court. A teacher who also works in the court, I'm not sure what his exact title is, he handles the prisoners, he talked to us for a good half hour before giving us the tour. He was talking a lot about the American system of law and how superior it is to most other places in the world. I did feel that he's a little too idealistic, that our system does fail us and is in fact raping the Constitution daily, but I admired his energy.

We were in a courtroom to hear some of the arraignments. I couldn't really hear that much, but one thing I did hear, and which gave me a laugh, was when this homeless black man was brought before the judge. The judge was reading from the police report, I guess, and he read that this guy said to the arresting officer when he was approached, "I'm just minding my own business, man. I'm smoking crack." You can't make this up, lol.

After that, we went to Applebee's for lunch. I'll never be good with groups. I felt uncomfortable, and Denise (the lady who drove us) teased me about it on the way home. I don't know, I don't have problems with expressing my feelings and some secrets, my opinions, on a virtual contraption like this one. But I do a total 180 in a group setting. I'm shy, quiet, reserved. I took it harder when I was younger. I always got depressed and felt they were just ignoring me. But I probably come off as a boring guy. As I've gotten older, I've learned to accept it. I have a quote that I use as my email signature, from Einstein: "I live in the solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity." It does taste a little delicious, because I value the time I have to learn and enrich my mind. I have been after friendship and more for a long time, and I feel that if it were to come to me now, I wouldn't know what to do with it. So maybe it just wasn't meant for me. Not all of us can get along easily with people and have people like them.

If you have Sirius, you should listen to Ron Silver's show on channel 110 from 9 to 11. He's an actor, you've probably seen him, but he's also very asute and intelligent, and knows a lot about world affairs and politics. I don't agree with a lot of what he says, but he comes across as being very reasoned and has a measured tone; not like the typical talk radio people like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, who have this tone of "I know everything, and you have to listen to what I say." He even has people like Phil Donahue on and actually lets them speak; he doesn't yell over them every 2 seconds.

Anyway, have a good night, and as Ron Silver says at the end of every show, try to appreciate the beauty in each day and look for that silver lining in the sky.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Forget the snow, listen to the oilman from Houston

This post from Bru Notes gives a good look at the latest updates on the global warming issue; specifically, that studies show that the American West is the warmest place on the planet, and getting warmer. Also, no less than the president of Shell Oil recently stated that "the debate is over"; global warming is real. When Shell Oil's saying that global warming is real, it's time for the few holdouts to pack up their tents.