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03 October 2008 @ 02:19 pm
1931, 2008The House just passed the bail-out bill the Senate passed earlier this week, which not only bails out Wall Street but also has billions for pork attached to, such as subsidies for rum makers in Puerto Rico and a couple million for makers of kids’ wooden arrows.

So, the bankers and speculators who f–ed up the economy and screwed millions of people get their golden parachutes and are not held accountable for their actions–and the millions of harmed Americans who have their lives ruined by the actions of predetory lending and quasi-criminal securities reselling, are producing stories like these:

Woman, 90, shoots self inside foreclosed home

Nearly 90% of Americans did not want this bail out. At the very least, some wanted assistance for citizens such as frozen foreclosures until they can be reevaluated or adjusted interest or principles–but nothing is in the bill which helps anyone but the bankers and the companies that got the attached earmarks.

That said, I’d like to present something:
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Just some silly words from the Founding Fathers in a little paper called the Declaration of Independence. Probably outdated and worthless sentiments nowadays. I guess take whatever meaning from that what you will.

How’s that “consent from the governed” working out, ya think?

In reference to the blog title: The exact same thing happened in 1931 when a very similar over-credited housing bubble burst and friend of big business President Hoover ramrodded Congress to pass a bill to give (in today’s money) about $500 billion to bail out the banks. A move that worked so well that countless people were forced out of their homes and off their farms and we had a Great Depression that required Roosevelt to allow the banking system to finally fail and rebuild itself with appropriate regulations. (The very regulations that Reagan and Bush got rid of in their terms. Funny, that.)

Of course, we don’t have a drought of Biblical proportions we have to deal with today which does change things significantly. But maybe that just means that people in all these tent cities that are starting to spring up will get to eat government veggies instead of government cheese.

29 September 2008 @ 01:03 pm

The first privately funded, non-governmental, liquid fuel rocket reached Earth's orbit this last weekend!

Phil Plait comments on it in his Bad Astronomer blog:It's kind of funny, when you go to the company's Web site, the illustrations of the craft look so sci-fi, or like a page from a role-playing game book. :)

It took twelve years to get from Russia's first satellite, Sputnik, to the first moon landing. We have the information, knowledge, and experience from the past to help as well as better technology--they better be able to put a person on the Moon in under ten years or something is seriously wrong. I think private enterprise will be able to get a Moon-walk before NASA's projected return to Moon goal.

With developments like this, so long as the state of the middle class improves from this current slide toward disenfranchisement and being an even seriously more have-not class, I would like to be optimistic that my daughter will have the opportunity in her lifetime to be able to ride into space. It would be a dream of mine to be able to view our delicate, blue-green home from the inky black of space. *sigh*

Bottom line, we have to be able to get off this planet, and develop the ability soon if there's going to be any hope for the human race (assuming one wants the human race to be able to survive. I suppose I can accept the academic argument that we should remain on Earth and thrive or perish as a species just like any animal on the planet. Personally, bollocks to that!) Whether it's because we've frakked up our habitable biosphere, or a killer comet, or pandemic disease, whatever the reason--humans are ultimately doomed. It's just a matter of when: tomorrow; 100,000 years from now. If we can start to colonize space (and arguably spread our locust-like expansion to as yet innocent and unsuspecting planets and moons) we can increase the chance that our species will be around long enough to evolve into more hardy, space-resilient creatures.

Speaking of hardy resilience, our own planet so wants to kill us! Check out this video, also supplied by Phil Plait, on some pesky weather found in Antarctica:
25 September 2008 @ 01:59 pm

First, we have McCain wanting to suspend his debate and take the V.P. debate off the schedule in order to “work on this economic crisis.”

Huh. This is from the guy who has said on more than one occasion that he doesn’t know anything about economics. Plus, he’s not on any of the Senate committees investigating the issue. So, what exactly will he be working on? Sitting at his desk, all alone, playing with a calculator? (For the 5th time that day he turns it up and down and gives his creepy chuckle and nudges his aid who rolls his eyes, “Heh heh, look, it spells ‘80081E5′!”)

On a more serious note, here’s some significant info no one is talking about:

First, banks have already failed, gone under, closed doors, got bought out–like Lehman Brothers and AIG.

Then Goldman Sachs is about to go under, and suddenly Paulson wants nearly a trillion taxpayer dollars (which doesn’t exist, by the way–it would have to be created out of imaginary numbers on paper and eventually owed to probably China) to bail out the banks.

Here’s the interesting part: Henry Paulson worked for Goldman Sachs for decades, was even their CEO up until he became Treasury Secretary! In 2006 his stock ownership in Goldman Sachs was estimated at half a billion dollars. Convenient that when their debt gets wiped off their books and transferred to the tax payers, their stock will rise again. Hmmm.

Anyone see a problem with this? Or is it just me?

23 September 2008 @ 04:04 pm
moneybagsAn amazing article by David Rushkoff that briefly explains exactly how the capitalist system we work under was a contrived system to serve the royals and proto-capitalists (and is not a “natural” development as the hegemony would have you, the proletariat and the petite bourgeois, believe), and how what we are witnessing may be the beginning of the end of it:

. . . Unlike local currencies, centralized currencies were biased towards retaining their value over time. Capitalism (in addition to being a lot of other things) is the way people get rich simply for being rich. Capital becomes the most important component in the capital/labor/resources equation. Since the purpose of the Renaissance innovations was to keep the currently wealthy wealthy, the currency was biased to favor those who had it - and could mete it out at high interest rates to those who needed it for their transactions.

What we witnessed over the past decades has been the necessary endgame of the scenario.

. . .

The collapse of centrally controlled commerce and currency simply creates an opportunity for local commerce and currency to revive. For people to learn to work and live together on a human, local scale - as the original free market advocate, Adam Smith, actually suggested. Admittedly, this would be a painful transition for many - but it’s better than maintaining dependence on a fiscal system designed from the start to turn people and communities into extractable corporate assets. (Think about that the next time you’re called up to “human resources.”) . . .

This reminds me of the post I wrote not too long ago in which I discuss, ad nauseum, the failures of conservatism and the corruption of capitalism, and the ideals of anarcho-socialism:

And to a lesser although probably more readable degree:

23 September 2008 @ 11:58 am

Warning: Extreme elitist misanthropic opinion follows.

I watched the latest “Real Time with Bill Maher” the other day, and he decried the intelligence of the American people as unable to do the right thing when voting, citing as one of his examples the fact that most people (according to USA Today) believe in angels, particularly interceding “guardian angels.” This news was immediately below the article on the economic collapse. He may also at one point mentioned the fact that Bush got 49 and 50% of the popular vote the last two elections as an example of the lack of intelligence in the U.S.

That stayed in the back of my mind for a while. Then the other day I had to sit in the emergency waiting room and had the privilege of sitting near an 18-year-old mother of what looked like a 1 year old, with her husband/boyfriend/whatever and his friend. She didn’t in general seem very bright, the boyfriend seemed a bit dim, and the friend was a dead ringer for “Larry the Cable Guy”. Including the god-awful voice. Next to them was another teen mom who was only slightly more with it. When we moved to the next waiting room, there was a, what I would peg as a 16-year-old, who wasn’t too shy about expressing her “embarrassment” (yeah) at being a “what’s it called, when someone has sex and, like, isn’t married or something? Oh, yeah, a for-ni-ca-tor. Now I bet they’re all thinking I’m a for-ni-ca-tor” she said as she patted her flat bare tummy. It was very surreal.

Now, let me stop for a second and correct what I’m sure is an understandable misreading of where I’m going with this. My story isn’t done, but it would look like I’m about to equate teen pregnancy with lack of intelligence. I’m not. Anyone old enough to be capable of sex with an IQ of 50 to 150 can get pregnant as a teen. Teens have sex, it’s what our bodies evolved to do regardless of intelligence. We may not like it (I’d prefer if my own daughter abstained until, say, 32…) but it’s a fact of life. Where intelligence would have any role in this is in how the adults in society approach the subject: Either pretend it won’t happen and teach abstinence only despite the facts, or accept it may happen and teach the realistic dangers of sex and appropriate birth control. But, this isn’t what this post is about, although it’s slightly related. I just wanted to clear up that my thoughts on American intelligence only coincidentally was sparked by being around pregnant or child-n-tow teens who happened to be dim bulbs irrespective of their state of parenthood.

So, this later girl and her mother are talking to another waiting room patient who I pegged as what this girl would likely be like in 40 years: not a very sharp tack but experienced, yet without having learned from it. And somehow they get to talking about the girl’s boyfriend sleeping in the same bed…but they don’t have sex. Of course the other woman commented, “Riiiight!” with the girl responding “It’s true! But, it wasn’t an “It’s true!” with the subtext of “You must believe my claim of chastity!” but rather “…and it sucks!” My read of her subtext was confirmed by the mom saying, “Oh, it’s true, they don’t…and she’s very frustrated about it.”

Buhwah?! Yep, you read right and I heard right. The mom was sympathetic to the 15, 16-year-old daughter’s pain at not having sex because of her boyfriend’s “respect issues.” This is obviously a woman who has no idea what a parent is supposed to do and evidently believes the best way to parent is to be your child’s “best friend.” Well, my droogs, I’m certainly not the first person to express “bullshit” at that idea and present as Exhibit A the f–ed up state of American culture as proof that we have way too many parents out there who are doing a piss-poor job of parenting. Why is it we’re one of the most modern, richest, advanced countries, and we have a higher drug addiction rate, higher crime, teen pregnancy, belief in Creationism and literal Biblical interpretation, lowest math and science scores than any other modern Western nation? We have a culture of intellectually retarded people raised by idiots who are now raising their own idiots in a tradition of pride in idiocy.

At risk of sounding like a curmudgeony stand-up comic, the “perfect America” never existed and “Leave it to Beaver” never existed, but there WAS a time when a kid got in trouble at school they got in equal or more trouble at home. A premium was placed on getting education. On learning. Today if a kid gets in trouble at school, the parent will be “all up in da principal’s face” defending their kid’s right to be a slacker delinquent.

We have a media culture that panders to mindless entertainment and shies away from anything challenging. “News” that believes all sides must get equal time, even if that means giving flat-earthers as much validity as legitimate scientists. “News” programs that encourage belief that a frakkin’ bug on a camera lens is a ghost or angel without a whisper of skepticism or encouraging people to actually think.

We have a society in which any sign of intelligence is derided as “elitism” and we make fun of it like the school bully who deals with his latent insecurity about being dumb by beating on the smart kids. We have a bully culture that thrives on war and violence, responds only to fear, and mistrusts intellectuals or education.

Well I for one am sick of it. I’m tired of “who would you rather have a beer with/watch football with?” as a poll question when discussing who to vote for. No one asks “Who would you rather have defining the scientific agenda for the country?” or “Who do you think has the ability to use statesmanship in the complex and delicate balances of world relations?” We seem to be a country of “American Idol” addicted weeble-wobbles with a media culture that has no interest in doing anything other than feed the demand for more idiots playing to the idiots and an education system that has no teeth or ability to make any significant difference. We live in a country in a world that demands intelligent, thoughtful, reasoned leadership and representation. Our very existence as a country depends on it.

I think it’s time we suspend the idea of “everyone has the right to vote” in favor of “you must be this intelligent to vote” criteria. It’s a somewhat fascist idea, but if we don’t stop voting on “values” and “beer buddy” benchmarks and start voting into offices people who are capable and bright, we’re doomed. The school bully tends to grow up and become an insurance or car salesman or real estate agent; the picked-on nerd runs the internet and controls the systems we all depend on. Well, it’s graduation time and America is becoming a car salesman and the smarter countries will before long own and control us. I don’t know, maybe we deserve it. We get the President we deserve, they say. Maybe we’re getting the status in the world we deserve as well.

Don't want to potentially waste your time by reprinting here, but if you're interested in my post on some of Sarah Palin's decorating and emailing issues, see my blog here:

15 September 2008 @ 01:07 pm
If you're interested in a historical look at the current state of Fail! compared to the one that happened in the 1920s, read my recent post here:
Otherwise, please enjoy your day. :)

12 September 2008 @ 11:28 am

The last few weeks there have been a slew of postings and releases (to feature only a couple) regarding the rise of deadly measles and other once fully contained contagious diseases in the U.K. and the U.S. due to people not vaccinating. Enough people in some places have stopped vaccinating as to weaken the “herd immunity” allowing disease to spread through a community. Fortunately in the U.S. and U.K. people have been getting treatment in time before anyone has died–but people in less modern anti-vaccine propaganda soaked regions aren’t so lucky: “What is the Harm?” Doesn’t it scare anyone that in 2008, because of anti-vaccine scaremongers, polio could make a comeback?

And is it likely that yet another high-quality, indipendent study on the supposed link between Autism and vaccines has come back with a resounding result of “no connection” will make any difference to these people? I seriously doubt it.

Here’s the point of why I’m finally commenting on the subject: Phil Plait just posted his thoughts on the dangers of uncritical thinking in general, and why we cannot with any human conscience sit idly by while superstition and unreason and uncritical thinking can have real, tangible, harmful effects:

… I’m a parent. I sometimes think the most important thing I can do for my daughter is love her, keep her healthy, protect her. But in all of those, there is an overarching responsibility for me to teach her how to live in the real world. And that means showing her how to think. Not what to think, but how. …

His post is sparked by a death as the result of fear around the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) which came online this week. Yes, the absurd fear surrounding the LHC, not the LHC itself, resulted in a death. A couple of days ago two classmates walked into class talking about the LHC and in only half-joking tones were asking each other what they thought of the possible results of the LHC–including Earth destroying black holes and reality destroying chain reactions. Two supposedly educated people who have allowed themselves to be duped by a sensationalism spewing mass media which cares only for gaining readership/viewers and nothing for actual facts and truth and real news, who are comfortable with accepting what they’re told and not checking things out for themselves. It would… should, only take a couple of minutes for a person to think:

“Hmmm, the LHC sounds like a massive endeavor involving a lot of scientists, researchers, and technicians to come up with and build it. Something on that kind of scale would surely have been so thoroughly studied that any possible negative effects (especially the destruction of the universe which presumably would include the death of all the scientists, researchers, and technicians and everyone they love and care about) must either be negligible or non-existent.
Although, people have been on large scales wrong before or have been willing to take huge deadly risks–but usually on subjects involving religion, politics, and/or war–not cold and calculating science.
I doubt there’s anything potentially seriously dangerous about this, but I could be wrong. I should check this out by using critical sources that don’t have as their primary agenda to spread entertainment, fear, sensationalism, yellow journalism as “news”….”

Uncritical thinking has nothing to do with intelligence or education, but everything to do with, as Phil emphasizes, how to think. The human brain has evolved awesomely (in the true sense of the word) to be capable of such incredible ability and reason. We’re amazing pattern recognizers. We can deduce and we predict outcomes. But we’re also still incredibly primitive in the amazing capacity we have for logical fallacy and cognitive bias. Because each and every one of us have our own darlings, our own one or ten superstitions we believe in, or mystical/mythical beliefs, we really want to be able to say out of rationalization for our own peccadilloes “Oh, what’s the harm of letting people believe what they want, live and let live.”

The problem is that people die, people harm other people, over uncritical beliefs and thinking. Uncritical thinking has more at risk than a “harmless” $2 /minute call to an astrologer: uncritical thinking can kill. The most important thing we can do is not go around telling people “what you believe is wrong,” but telling people “this is how you examine and test what you believe” and then have the courage to apply that critical reasoning to your own beliefs as you desire to have other people do unto their own.

03 September 2008 @ 11:41 am

One of the stories mentioned in yesterday’s blog post on the police unlawfully raiding peaceful protestor organizations, homes of liberal organizers not even planning to protest, and confiscating computers and cameras (the dangerous weapons of the press and free public who watch the watchers), was the arrest of Democracy Now! producers and reporter:

Some bits of information that I didn’t see included in that article but has been detailed by Amy Goodman and witnesses elsewhere: the so-called riot (peaceful protest) was quelled and Sharif and Nicole were already accosted, battered, and cuffed, by the time Amy Goodman (who was interviewing Alaskan delegates inside the convention) got word that her producers were arrested. She rushed to the location to find out what was going on, and when (with security pass and press credentials clearly displayed) she explained she was press and demanded that her producers (who also clearly had convention press credentials displayed) be released–she too was accosted and cuffed and arrested.

At some point Secret Service agents came around and confiscated the security credentials of the held press employees.

At the Republican convention in New York in 2004 the police arrested over 1800 people and subsequently dropped the charges on most of them. The word ’bout town is that they willingly sucked up the millions of dollars in wrongful arrest suits they ended up paying in order to silence and intimidate would-be protestors and evil trouble-makers. Word ’bout Minneapolis/St. Paul is that they too are willing to suck it up in order to establish police state control over democracy. (Although there are reports of grumblings among the police who take umbrage at the fact that, like in New York four years ago, they’re being directed in these raids and sweeping arrests of press by federal agents–the presence of which can be clearly seen in many photos and videos being taken of raids and arrests.)

One of the organizations in pre-conventions raid mentioned in yesterday’s blog, was I-Witness. I didn’t know it yesterday that they were responsible for many of the dropped charges in New York four years ago because their reporter’s video clearly showed New York evidence against “conspirators” and “rioters” having been doctored and edited!

I ranted too much on it yesterday, so I’ll be brief when I reiterate here that we’ve lost control of our government. We were never meant to be controlled by the government which was intended to BE us, we the people. The government was not supposed to watch us, corral us, intimidate us. It was always supposed to be the other way around as the government was government only by the will and consent of the governed.

“When the government fears the people, there is liberty; when the people fear their government, there is tyranny.”

Thomas Jefferson

Democracy has lost, the American experiment has failed. Is there any hope of the people regaining control?

free market needs a docThe "invisible hand" to which I refer is the famous metaphor for the free market economy. The supposed magic hand that makes everything cheaper and more efficient. Feh! But more on that general topic later. Right now, here is some excellent information on how the free market health care system is f---d up.

Here's an article by Harvard cell biology post-grad Alex Palazzo in which he uses various sources of information, including the New England Journal of Medicine, to illustrate how in our lovely free market system, health care (and education) costs continue to rise over and beyond most other costs of living:
"Results: In 1999, health administration costs totaled at least $294.3 billion in the United States, or $1,059 per capita, as compared with $307 per capita in Canada. After exclusions, administration accounted for 31.0 percent of health care expenditures in the United States and 16.7 percent of health care expenditures in Canada. Canada's national health insurance program had overhead of 1.3 percent; the overhead among Canada's private insurers was higher than that in the United States (13.2 percent vs. 11.7 percent). Providers' administrative costs were far lower in Canada."
Meanwhile, John Goodman, close friend to John McCain and a policy advisor, and likely someone who will have influence in a McCain administration, recently stated that no one in America is uninsured because everyone has access to an emergency room. (McCain adviser: Everyone in U.S. has some health coverage)

Yes, of course! Because that's exactly what parents of infants with a worrying cough do, they go to the emergency room! Need a child wellness visit or a preventative care treatment, that's what emergency rooms are for! Gynecological and prostate exams? Emergency room! I bet they diagnose and treat cancer and immuno-diseases in emergency rooms! Hey, my wife's chronic illness doesn't have to bankrupt us from medical bills--we just have to go to the emergency room!

And the GOP condemns liberals for being "elitists."

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