Random Access Memories

July 6, 2017

And we see the signs of the next coming storm on the horizon.

by @ 3:46 pm. Filed under Business, News, Politics

For those of you not following the markets (overvalued), unemployment data (Unemployment is down), government policy changes (The odds of more fiscal stimulus is almost nil), or federal monetary policy (The Fed is raising interest rates). These are all indicators point to a coming recession in the next 1-3 years.

If you want more signs they will be things like a collapse in consumer spending, a drop in housing prices, rising unemployment, and an inverted yield curve. (You can learn about that here: http://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/05/inverted-yield-curve-predicting-coming-recession-commentary.html)

We have not seen these more “certain” signs yet, and I encourage you all to look out for them. (I would love to be proven wrong, lol) I think the odds are good enough to start “digging in”.

What does all this mean for us? Well, since we see some of the signs of a train coming at us down the tunnel we can at least plan a little.

Financially, this is a good time to save. Plan for possible coming unemployment. Plan for a drop in the stock market. (Divest your retirement, especially if you are over 45) Look for a job that doesn’t come and go at the whim of consumer spending. (Jobs people always need are more stable than jobs around things considered luxuries. Like eating out or buying a new car.)

Politically, it means that come 2020 we’re going to be looking at things getting worse, not better. Which means a change in party. (For those of you with aspirations of holding political office, heh.)

This is also a really good time to sell a house if you were at all planning to within the next five years. Better to rent for awhile and buy again than to be underwater later when you want to sell.

Me? I’m going to be saving, then investing those savings in the stock market after it looks like it’s hit a low point. Often stocks get badly undervalued when the bottom drops out.

I also think my home buying plans are on hold until the coming recession bottoms out. It will be a good point to buy, especially since the Spokane area where I am is in the midst of a bubble.

Curious as to what anyone else thinks would be good planning measures.

Thanks

February 4, 2017

At the end of the day Trump and the GOP do not scare me

by @ 11:33 am. Filed under Personal, Politics

Yes, you read that right, the next four years really do not scare me. They are certain to annoy me, but i’m not terrified of some long-term change in the USA.

Why? Well, because as Martin Luther King once said, “Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.”

Morality cannot be legislated. Laws can be passed, behavior controlled, but that won’t change morality. Yes, yes, the GOP hopes it will, but in the end it won’t. You only need to look at history for proof of that.

For example, during the Civil Rights struggle decades ago laws were passed to force civil rights on the population. They resisted, because the laws did not change what they saw as a correct morality. Instead it took decades of moral change to alter moral views. And what we have today is a world where racism is called out as shameful and only a minority still think it’s acceptable. I mean there would be a massive public outcry if a store dared to put up a “Whites only” sign in their window, regardless of how legal or illegal that action might be.

A more recent example was the Defense of Marriage Act. The conservatives attempted to pass a law to change the moral view of a subject, and failed miserably. Young people highly support gay marriage, and making a law against it has not changed their view of it.

So now we come to Trump and the GOP wildly trying to make laws and rules to change current morality on abortion, the environment, healthcare, etc. History has shown us that it takes time and a changing society to move those views, not just the law, so their efforts will be annoying, but they will hardly be permanent.

June 19, 2015

Nikola Tesla

by @ 1:39 pm. Filed under Personal, Politics, Quotes, Technology

A few quotes I stumbled into. Needless to say he’s one of my heroes.

If this does not appeal to you sufficiently to recognize in me a discoverer of principles, do me, at least, the justice of calling me an “inventor of some beautiful pieces of electrical apparatus.

There is no conflict between the ideal of religion and the ideal of science, but science is opposed to theological dogmas because science is founded on fact. To me, the universe is simply a great machine which never came into being and never will end. The human being is no exception to the natural order. Man, like the universe, is a machine. Nothing enters our minds or determines our actions which is not directly or indirectly a response to stimuli beating upon our sense organs from without.

We build but to tear down. Most of our work and resource is squandered. Our onward march is marked by devastation. Everywhere there is an appalling loss of time, effort and life. A cheerless view, but true.

All that was great in the past was ridiculed, condemned, combated, suppressed – only to emerge all the more powerfully, all the more triumphantly from the struggle. Let the future tell the truth and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs, the future, for which I really worked, is mine.

May 20, 2015

Maximum Wage Law

by @ 7:22 am. Filed under Business, Crime & Justice, Personal, Politics

So I was listening to NPR this morning. And they were talking about how Los Angeles is voting to raise it’s minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Of course they had the usual experts there talking about how jobs will be lost because the money has to come from somewhere.

And I call bullshit.

You have people at the top of business, in all sectors, taking home insanely massive paychecks. And as a society we allow that to be subsidized on the backs of the poorest workers while complaining that they can’t make money without slave wages.

Frankly, i’m sick of this shit. Rather than a minimum wage I propose a “maximum wage”. No person can be paid more than half a Million dollars per year in net pay, bonuses and stock.

If you need more than half a million dollars per year to maintain your “standard of living”, then fuck you for being a greedy pretentious prick. The excess will be taxed and a substantial share of it distributed to those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

It’s past time to keep paying the insane salaries of the feudal lords from the blood, sweat and tears of the peasant masses. The system is a sham. We need to break out the torches and pitchforks and take back equality.

March 26, 2015

Flight 9525 and security or freedom

by @ 6:27 am. Filed under Personal, Politics

So, we have learned this morning that the copilot of this flight intentionally crashed it.

Which would not have been possible if he had not been able to completely lock the pilot out of the cockpit.

Which is something that was enabled after 9/11.

So, do you feel safer now? I sure don’t.

December 28, 2014

Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving

by @ 5:06 pm. Filed under Business, Personal, Politics

Anyone know if this has a modern-day equivalent? I would love to get involved with it.

September 30, 2014

Unimpressed by the Washington Times

by @ 11:21 am. Filed under Business, Media, News, Personal, Politics, Religion

So, somehow I ended up on a mailing list for the Washington Times. Which is odd because I do not recall ever signing up for such a thing, and checking my back emails shows no signup confirmation.

The ad is titled: “Why is THIS Bible verse changing atheists’ minds?”

Now, maybe i’m asking a lot, but I don’t expect media outlets that I might be interested in readon news on to thump the bible. It’s apparently from this nutjob company called “Health Revelations” that claims there is a cure for cancer hidden in the bible.

And after a lengthy sales pitch explaining how you can cure your cancer it asks you to claim your “free gifts” by of course signing up to pay them money: “1-Year Subscription (12 issues) for just $74.00”

Now I know the Times is just looking for advertising revenue, but it strikes me as poor judgment when their ads are more likely to stop people from reading their site than to get them clicks and more readers. This is what I expect from Faux (Fox) News, not “real” news sources.

September 4, 2014

Ok, i’ve had enough.

by @ 12:04 pm. Filed under Personal, Politics, Religion, Server Admin

I’m finding that some people want to come here to critique my views, attitudes, etc. And yet there is no way for me to return the favor towards them. (IE. Trolls) Those people are now banned from posting here. Have a nice day.

May 23, 2014

On overqualification

by @ 4:56 pm. Filed under Business, Personal, Politics, Technology

Recently I applied for an opening I found on Craigslist. I received the following reply:

“Thank you for your interest in this position. It would appear yours skills are above the stated entry level for this position. We will keep your resume on file should any positions befitting of your skills open in the near future.”

I consistently hear from conservative minded folks that “There is always work out there if you want it bad enough, you just have to swallow your pride”. Well fucking guess what, sometimes there isn’t, even if you do swallow your pride.

What I also think is funny is this came from the “QA Manager” and contains a spelling error.

November 13, 2011

What side are YOU on?

by @ 10:24 am. Filed under Politics

I give up, I really fucking give up.

It used to be that no matter how diverse people’s opinions were in matters you could always attempt to draw some measure of logical argument and try to come to something resembling compromise. Even within the last 20 years this seemed possible.

Not anymore.

Now it appears to be all about what team you’re on. And if you dare speak out against one team or the other you’re labeled a traitor and you might as well be speaking pig latin at that point because the side that has labeled you does not want to hear anything you have to say anymore regardless of how logical it is.

A lovely example of this can be found here: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/world/52812832-68/story.csp

The short version of that story is that a prominent climate change skeptic crunched the numbers and found he was wrong. Did the other skeptics take note? Certainly, but only to scream and yell that he was a traitor to their cause. This is cultist thinking, not science.

For someone like me that is exceedingly logical it’s a pile of horseshit. You cannot run a nation with nepotism.

October 19, 2011

Money and voter initiatives

by @ 12:34 pm. Filed under Business, Politics

The Washington State government is whining that it won’t be able to find the money to back the proposed ballot initiative I-1163, which calls for better licensing and regulation of long-term care workers.

What is really funny is another version of this same ballot measure passed in 2008 (I-1029) with an overwhelming 72.53% of the vote and yet, they couldn’t find the money to pay for that one either.

They’ve been all about cuts and not nearly enough about increasing revenue (IE. raising taxes).

So, when is it time to say that democracy is more important than the local politicians that don’t dare to pass tax increases? The people have voted for this measure, the government should fund it, end of story.

October 18, 2011

The war over potatos

by @ 7:22 am. Filed under Business, Food, Politics

So “New guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture would eliminate potatoes altogether from school breakfasts and drastically reduce the amount of potatoes served in lunches.”

And of course politicians from potato-heavy states like Idaho and Maine are up in arms about this.

Since of course everyone knows that politicians and farmers know what is truly healthy, not doctors and nutritionists.

October 12, 2011

5 things you think will make you happy, but won’t.

by @ 12:21 pm. Filed under Personal, Politics

I ran across a tidbit from back in 2009 on Cracked.

The list is as follows:

1. Power
2. Genius
3. Beauty
4. Wealth
5. Fame

What DOES make people happy?

Friendships, altruism and religious practices.

And the number of people killing themselves for wealth, power, fame, etc. that actually believe this information? Too infinitesimal to bother pondering.

May 18, 2011

Deep thought of the day

by @ 9:51 am. Filed under Personal, Politics

“Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” – Stephen Colbert, White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, 4/29/2006

March 17, 2011

A few numbers

by @ 10:27 pm. Filed under News, Politics

222,570, that’s my first number to think about. Almost one quarter of a million.

Now compare that number to 6,400.

The first number is the UN total on how many people were killed in the 2010 Haitian earthquake. The second is the death toll so far from the recent Japanese quake. That’s thirty five dead in Haiti for every one person dead in Japan.

4,672 Haitians have died just from the cholera outbreak after the quake alone.

Haiti has no running water, no sanitation, no insurance, no stable government, no infrastructure.

So some may find this callous, but seriously, which place should donations be going to at this point?

On Dogs and People

by @ 6:39 pm. Filed under Politics

Recently I read a piece that described there being 45% more dogs than children in Seattle.

Some say it’s more educated population is putting off having children, but I think that’s only part of the equation. Let’s look deeper at some other commonly cited numbers shall we?

According to the Puget Sound Business Journal 75% of single apartment renters in Seattle own dogs.

Recent census data shows that just one in five Seattle households includes children under the age of 18, only San Francisco came out lower.

Also According to the 2000 census projection on 2004 Seattle has the fifth highest proportion of single-person households nationwide among cities of 100,000 or more residents, at 40.8 percent.

Yes, yes, all plenty of figures saying that Satellites don’t like kids and like dogs.

However, is it just kids? Let’s move onto the things that I don’t have facts and figures for.

Since I moved here 4 years ago I’ve found the great majority of Seattle residents to be very neighborly, helpful and kind. They will stop for a jaywalker and wave him across with a smile for example.

However what they won’t do is get to know people. In my opinion Seattle has an issue with “people connections”, be it the weather, be it status of hipster circles, be it the phases of the moon Seattle is not a “friends” town.

One interesting thing I noticed was that SeaTac Airport near Seattle does NOT get horribly crowded around the holidays (I’ve seen this firsthand) It gets busy during the summer months instead, meaning the family connections that people travel for during the holidays are not present here in such abundance.

Right now you’re probably asking yourself “So what? What’s this have to do with me?”, well, if you’re young and liberal (Which is likely 90% of the people reading this), everything.

Let’s think about it. Seattle is one of the most liberal places in the USA, boarding on Socialistic. They like to increase taxes, they like public programs, they like taking care of the environment, but the numbers on households and their general attitudes towards others seem to show that they don’t like connecting with other people. How can those things interact together in a healthy way?

“Yes, let’s make sure everyone is taken care of.. but I really don’t want to know any of those people, I just want to take care of them.” Please, tell me how that doesn’t seem empty and heartless.

What worries me is that this attitude is a spreading thing. Will the next generation have fleeting internet connections into their old age instead of just their myspace and facebook “friends” of today? I guess time will tell.

March 1, 2011

Canadian Judge orders Lawyer to mislead his client.

by @ 11:33 pm. Filed under Crime & Justice, News, Politics

Likely news you have heard nothing about, but I found it very interesting.

In New Brunswick back in 2008 a young lady by the name of Erica Sparks was injured in a car accident. She attempted to sue the other driver for damages. The insurance company of the other driver fought the claim.

During the trial they decided they wanted to see Spark’s facebook photos to determine the level of her injuries.

The Judge (Fred Ferguson) decided she might try to delete her photos before being forced to hand them over, so he ordered her lawyer (James Crocco) to mislead her by hiring another lawyer to summon her to his office.

He was not allowed to tell her anything about the meeting at which she was under court order to login to facebook and provide the photos.

How exactly will things change if judges get an idea that they can hand down a court order to force a lawyer to do something against the client’s best interest?

February 25, 2011

Getting a little tired of sexism against men

by @ 2:54 pm. Filed under Personal, Politics, Technology

So in the last few days I have gotten several notices from meetup.com.

They are all for “women only” meetup groups. For those of you that are unaware I am both male, and a strong advocate against sexism towards men.

So I was curious, I searched for what groups where specifically “women only” and found quite a few near me.

Someone please tell me how this would be accepted if groups were listed as men only?

It wouldn’t, so how it is that it’s acceptable for groups to be listed for women only?

EDIT: Apparently meetup works on the “These are all independent private clubs, they can do whatever they want”, etc. Of course if someone started a “whites only” group I’m rather sure it would suddenly be removed even tho it was “private” since they would say it “offends people”.

January 9, 2011

Gabrielle Gifford

by @ 1:10 am. Filed under Politics

Shot in the face today by a disturbed young man.

Blame now flying amongst the Liberals, “It was Sarah Palin’s Fault” some say, others scream “It’s all about the Tea Party! They wanted war!”.

And you know what the most important thing about these illogically quick judgments is? That they are directly from Sarah Palin’s Tea Party playbook itself.

Here we have a sudden cataclysmic event that is pulling together Liberals against what they are not seeing as a common enemy, even if no such enemy exists.

Which is exactly what the Tea Party has been doing.

September 29, 2010

Partaking of Seattle Parking

by @ 8:08 am. Filed under Personal, Politics

So our “relatively new” Mayor in Seattle wants to raise downtown parking rates.

His budget proposes parking meter fees of $4 per hour. A sharp increase from the $2.50 per hour that is charged now. People are taking sides on the measure now with some downtown businesses saying it would be very bad for their bottom line.

My take on it as a North-Seattle resident with a car? It’s not enough. I say double the current rate to 5$ per hour.

I’ll happily explain why.

First and foremost I only own a car because I previously owned it before I moved to Seattle. Most things I need are within walking distance for me, and if I want to buy something big I could easily go rent a pay-by-the-hour car to pick it up. My car is old and I’ve been hesitant to replace it, because I really just don’t need a newer one. Moving out of Phoenix reduced my driving by over 95%. It’s much better to take the bus and let someone else do the driving. Having said all this if I want or need to drive downtown for something that requires a car I want to be able to find a parking space.

Downtown Seattle is notorious among residents for it’s lack of available street parking with a large number of the available curbside slots taken up by downtown workers that drive. They find the $20 parking fee for 8 hours curbside beats the average 25$ daily commercial garage fees and it’s hard to blame them.

This seems to indicate that a rise in parking fees would be beneficial rather than detrimental to downtown businesses allowing more customers parking spots for an hour or two since fewer workers are using them. I know I would pay more for this.

Also, one needs to look at what businesses there are downtown. The area is not filled with dolor stores, or big box stores, or huge furniture outlets, it’s primarily small retail establishments and high-end restaurants with a smattering of expensive furniture stores and art galleries where the customers are most likely happy to have things delivered and don’t care about the added expense.

The there is the amount of the increase, which would make us the second most expensive city to park in behind Chicago.

Again I say that’s a terrific idea. Seattle is tearing down the Alaskan Way Viaduct and building a multi-billion-dollar tunnel to route traffic past downtown in favor of pedestrian amenities on the surface. This was supported over cheaper projects that took a huge chunk out of the waterfrost area for an above-ground road.

In short we are simply not a “car-friendly” town and our parking rates should support the general attitude of the population to move towards public transit and pedestrian access and away from automobiles. There was no public outcry over previous parking increases, and I doubt there will be one now.

June 23, 2010

Stephen Hawking on aliens

by @ 9:27 am. Filed under Personal, Politics

“If aliens were among us then it would be all over the papers and if it was being covered up by the Governments then they are doing a far better job of it than they have managed with anything else”

May 17, 2010

The myth of the “Food Pyramid”

by @ 2:43 pm. Filed under Politics

As you can easily see below the Federal Nutrition Recommendations do not match Federal Food Subsidies.

You can draw your own conclusions on why the 2 items vary so wildly.

May 14, 2010

No Johnny, you cannot be an Astronaut, how about being an oil driller instead?

by @ 6:42 am. Filed under Business, News, Personal, Politics

So what’s come to the top of the pot in the US recently?

We’re found that both BP and the Government were grossly wrong about the flow rate of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (No shock there really, what company isn’t going to make it’s figures as low as possible when it’s impact on the environment is concerned).

We’re learned that Transocean who owns the rig has received 411 million dollars from it’s insurance company, but is trying to use a law written in 1851 to limit it’s liability to 21 million total.

To top it off the last flight of the shuttle Atlantis is scheduled for this afternoon, and the final flight for all the shuttles is a November launch of Discovery. The replacement launch vehicle “Orion” has a scheduled launch date of 2015, anyone that seriously thinks that is going to be on target is fooling themselves.

The US has ignored the job of the Federal Government to push the envelope for the good of the nation and instead now has handed off such trivial things to private corporations. Those corporations are now almost completely running the show, able to do almost anything and ignore the consequences of their actions.

In the end tho isn’t it the people that need to do something about this? Given the great divide in US politics I don’t see that happening for more than 20 years.

So all we can really do now is keep fooling ourselves into thinking that we matter while of course remembering to bow to our corporate masters who demand our money and ruin our environment. Yeah, I am no more thrilled about this idea than you are.

January 22, 2010

Welcome to the USA, now for sale to the highest bidder!

by @ 12:37 pm. Filed under Business, Personal, Politics

Thanks to the Supreme Court corporate money can now flow into political campaigns with reckless abandon.

If money is now considered speech then those with more money have more right to speech.

So much for the average voter actually having a meaningful voice anymore.

November 4, 2009

Conservatives becoming even more conservative.

by @ 10:06 am. Filed under Personal, Politics, Religion

To quote Mark Greenbaum of the Christian Science Monitor:

In a nation that is so diverse economically, culturally, and politically, a party that enforces a rigid litmus test for membership will not be able to remain viable.

If Republicans continue to move from the center in areas where adherence to conservative ideology is not palatable to a majority of voters, the GOP will not be able to regain Congress or the presidency anytime soon.

I think they’re dying, they just haven’t been buried yet. The sooner they realize this the sooner we can quit having “us or them” politics.

October 19, 2009

My new “religion”

by @ 9:28 am. Filed under Personal, Politics, Religion

I’ve thrown my support behind the “New Atheist” movemtn.

“Intolerance of ignorance, myth and superstition; disregard for the tolerance of religion.
Indoctrination of logic, reason and the advancement of a naturalistic worldview.”

Right up my alley.

April 18, 2009

We miss you Roxanna

by @ 7:33 am. Filed under Crime & Justice, News, Politics

Roxanna Saberi was convicted of spying today in Iran following a one-day closed-door trial.

Can you say “sham”? Good, I knew you could.

I hope she realizes that many of us back in the USA are hoping for her safe return. Maybe at least when she gets back and all this is over it might make the memories a little less harsh to know she was not really “alone”.

Iran Convicts U.S. Journalist Of Spying

April 18, 2009

NPR.org, April 18, 2009 · An Iranian court has convicted U.S. Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi of spying and sentenced her to eight years in prison. Saberi, who has reported for NPR, only recently learned of the espionage charge.

Saberi’s lawyer was not allowed to ask the court about bail. She has been jailed at Evin Prison in Iran since Jan. 31.

The deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Robert Mahoney, says her sentence is too harsh.

“We believe that Roxana Saberi’s trial was not transparent,” he said. “And it does not seem that she has been treated fairly. We would call on the Iranian authorities to release her on bail pending appeal because we believe she should not be confined in Evin prison.”

NPR’s CEO Vivian Schiller says Saberi has already been held in for three months. Schiller has appealed to the Iranian government to show compassion and allow Saberi to return immediately to the United States.

February 2, 2009

“Free” trade

by @ 4:26 am. Filed under Business, Politics

Alot has been made lately of the possibly “protectionist” agenda of the Obama administration.

Supposedly if we do not allow completely free trade with countries like China then it will be bad for the USA.

But how exactly? The only people I see losing out are the ones making millions in CEO positions because they choose to ship manufacturing off to where there are no worker rights and where wages are paid in cents not dollars.

I hardly see the current trade situation as “free”, in previous times we called it “exploitation”.

The need to bring jobs back to the USA to make things for US use and export to other nations is a basis of a stable economy.

January 29, 2009

NRA Wine Club?

by @ 4:50 am. Filed under Business, Personal, Politics

Now i’m not a big fan of everything the NRA stands for, but I am a believer in the principle behind the Second Amendment.

What I cannot fathom is the NRA “Special Offer” email I got today from their “Wine Club”.

I have to say it isn’t the most brilliant idea to pair a group of gun owners with alcohol (not to mention the fact that i’m sure 99% of them are beer drinkers with no interest in wine).

January 28, 2009

The truth about Somalia’s pirates.

by @ 7:11 am. Filed under Business, Politics

I stumbled onto this the other day, much of it was completely new information to me.

Johann Hari: You are being lied to about pirates

Some are clearly just gangsters. But others are trying to stop illegal dumping and trawling

Who imagined that in 2009, the world’s governments would be declaring a new War on Pirates? As you read this, the British Royal Navy – backed by the ships of more than two dozen nations, from the US to China – is sailing into Somalian waters to take on men we still picture as parrot-on-the-shoulder pantomime villains. They will soon be fighting Somalian ships and even chasing the pirates onto land, into one of the most broken countries on earth. But behind the arrr-me-hearties oddness of this tale, there is an untold scandal. The people our governments are labelling as “one of the great menaces of our times” have an extraordinary story to tell – and some justice on their side.

Pirates have never been quite who we think they are. In the “golden age of piracy” – from 1650 to 1730 – the idea of the pirate as the senseless, savage Bluebeard that lingers today was created by the British government in a great propaganda heave. Many ordinary people believed it was false: pirates were often saved from the gallows by supportive crowds. Why? What did they see that we can’t? In his book Villains Of All Nations, the historian Marcus Rediker pores through the evidence.

If you became a merchant or navy sailor then – plucked from the docks of London’s East End, young and hungry – you ended up in a floating wooden Hell. You worked all hours on a cramped, half-starved ship, and if you slacked off, the all-powerful captain would whip you with the Cat O’ Nine Tails. If you slacked often, you could be thrown overboard. And at the end of months or years of this, you were often cheated of your wages.

Pirates were the first people to rebel against this world. They mutinied – and created a different way of working on the seas. Once they had a ship, the pirates elected their captains, and made all their decisions collectively, without torture. They shared their bounty out in what Rediker calls “one of the most egalitarian plans for the disposition of resources to be found anywhere in the eighteenth century”.

They even took in escaped African slaves and lived with them as equals. The pirates showed “quite clearly – and subversively – that ships did not have to be run in the brutal and oppressive ways of the merchant service and the Royal Navy.” This is why they were romantic heroes, despite being unproductive thieves.

The words of one pirate from that lost age, a young British man called William Scott, should echo into this new age of piracy. Just before he was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, he said: “What I did was to keep me from perishing. I was forced to go a-pirateing to live.” In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: “Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it.” Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to “dispose” of cheaply. When I asked Mr Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: “Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention.”

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia’s seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish stocks by overexploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m-worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are being stolen every year by illegal trawlers. The local fishermen are now starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: “If nothing is done, there soon won’t be much fish left in our coastal waters.”

This is the context in which the “pirates” have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a “tax” on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia – and ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site WardheerNews found 70 per cent “strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence”.

No, this doesn’t make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters – especially those who have held up World Food Programme supplies. But in a telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali: “We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas.” William Scott would understand.

Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our toxic waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We won’t act on those crimes – the only sane solution to this problem – but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 per cent of the world’s oil supply, we swiftly send in the gunboats.

The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarised by another pirate, who lived and died in the fourth century BC. He was captured and brought to Alexander the Great, who demanded to know “what he meant by keeping possession of the sea.” The pirate smiled, and responded: “What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor.” Once again, our great imperial fleets sail – but who is the robber?

j.hari@independent.co.uk

January 22, 2009

The run on ammunition.

by @ 5:52 pm. Filed under Business, Personal, Politics

So Jennifer (still in Phoenix, AZ) and I were talking.

She said her boyfriend tried to buy some handgun ammo the other day, but couldn’t. Wal-mart, Big-5, Sports Authority were all completely sold out.

It’s obvious why, but what is interesting is it has not been mentioned in any news source anywhere.

January 6, 2009

Charles Singleton

by @ 6:26 am. Filed under Crime & Justice, Politics

Let’s take a moment to remember Charles Singleton.

He was convicted of murder by Arkansas in 1979 for stabbing store clerk Mary Lou York twice in the neck. He was executed by the state on January 6th, 2004.

While that was a terrible crime and he should have definitely been punished for it the part of this I want people to remember is how the state managed to kill him.

In 1986 the Supreme Court proclaimed it illegal to execute people unless they understood that they were being put to death and why.

An appeals court based in St Louis ruled in February 2003 that the constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment would not be violated if the authorities forcibly gave antipsychotic medication to the inmate, Charles Laverne Singleton. It was this decision that was upheld by the Supreme Court later that year.

So in short if you’re crazy we can still execute you by making you take medication so that we think you’re sane enough to execute, regardless of your mental state when you commited your crime.

If you don’t think this is a gross violation of people’s civil rights then you should not be reading this website.

January 5, 2009

Abstinence ignorance

by @ 7:40 am. Filed under Politics, Religion

I have no disagreement, the idea of training children in only abstinence is silly at best.

Abstinence-only sex education has totally failed the nation’s teens

Programs mandated to teach only “the social, psychological and health gains (of) abstaining from sexual activity” have been awarded failing grades for truth and effectiveness. The programs that work best combine honest information about sexuality, including contraception.

By Ellen Goodman

Syndicated Columnist

BOSTON — I hate to bring this up right now when the ink is barely dry on your New Year’s resolution. But if history is any guide, you are likely to fall off the assorted wagons to which you are currently lashed.

I don’t say this to disparage your willpower. Hang onto that celery stick for dear life. And even if you stop doing those stomach crunches and start sneaking out for a smoke, at least you can comfort yourself with fond memories of your moment of resolution.

Compare that to the statistic in the newest research about teens who pledge abstinence. The majority not only break the pledge, they forget they ever made it.

This study of teens and pledges comes from Johns Hopkins researcher Janet Rosenbaum, who took a rigorous look at nearly 1,000 students. She compared teens who took a pledge of abstinence with teens of similar backgrounds and beliefs who didn’t. She found absolutely no difference in their sexual behavior, or the age at which they began having sex, or the number of their partners.

In fact, the only difference was that the group that promised to remain abstinent was significantly less likely to use birth control, especially condoms, when they did have sex. The lesson many students seemed to retain from their abstinence-only program was a negative and inaccurate view of contraception.

This is not just a primer on the capacity for teenage denial or the inner workings of adolescent neurobiology. What makes this study important is simply this: “virginity pledges” are one of the ways that the government measures whether abstinence-only education is “working.” They count the pledges as proof that teens will abstain. It turns out that this is like counting New Year’s resolutions as proof that you lost 10 pounds.

We have been here before. And before that. And before that.

When he was running for president, George W. Bush promised, “My administration will elevate abstinence education from an afterthought to an urgent goal.” Over the past eight years, a cottage industry of “abstinence-only-until-marriage” purveyors became a McMansion industry. Funding increased from $73 million a year in 2001 to $204 million in 2008. That’s a grand total of $1.5 billion in federal money for an ideology in search of a methodology. And half the states refused funds to pay for sex mis-education.

By now, there’s an archive of research showing that the binge was a bust. Programs mandated to teach only “the social, psychological and health gains (of) abstaining from sexual activity” and to warn of the dangers of having sex have been awarded failing grades for truth and effectiveness. As Rosenbaum says, “Abstinence-only education is required to give inaccurate information. Teens are savvy consumers of information and know what they are getting.”

Our national investment in abstinence-only may not be a scam on the scale of Bernie Madoff. But this industry has had standards for truth as loose as some mortgage lenders. It manufactures a product as ill-suited to the environment as the SUV. All in all, abstinence-only education has become emblematic of the rule of ideology over science.

The sorry part is that sex education got caught in the culture wars. It has been framed, says Bill Albert of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, as a battle between “those who wanted virginity pledges and those who wanted to hand out condoms to 14-year-olds.”

Meanwhile, six in 10 teens have sex before they leave high school and 730,000 teenage girls will get pregnant this year. We see them everywhere from “Juno” to Juneau — or to be more accurate, Anchorage, where Sarah Palin, advocate of abstinence-only education, just became an unplanned grandparent.

The overwhelming majority of protective parents don’t want a political battle. They want teens to delay sex and to have honest information about sexuality, including contraception. The programs that work best combine those lessons.

Soon Congress and the new administration will be asked to ante up again for abstinence-only programs. As Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood says, abstinence-only education was “an experiment gone awry. We spent $1.5 billion and can’t point to a single study that says this helps. If it doesn’t help, why fund it?”

Teens are not the only masters of denial. But we are finally stepping back from the culture wars. We are, with luck, returning to something that used to be redundant — evidence-based science. That’s a pledge worth signing … and remembering.

Ellen Goodman’s column appears Friday on editorial pages of The Times. Her e-mail address is ellengoodman@globe.com

December 30, 2008

The new face of Gaza

by @ 6:18 am. Filed under Politics, Religion

I’m tired of tit-for-tat violence, anywhere, by anyone.

Everyone loses, especially the innocent.

December 25, 2008

The real “Free Market”

by @ 5:01 am. Filed under Business, Politics


Free Market Pain


(Click it for a larger image)

December 22, 2008

Bush and security

by @ 2:23 pm. Filed under Politics

I keep hearing how Bush’s policies have saved the USA from terrorism. But when anyone asks how we have been saved we get something akin to “We can’t tell you, then the terrorists would know we know”.

To me this sounds like the old joke:

A: Why are you blowing that whistle?
B: To keep away elephants.
A: There are no elephants around here.
B: See, it’s working.

If we don’t have any evidence of how a policy is working we cannot just take no information as proof that a policy is required.

November 5, 2008

Suddenly the morning is a little brighter

by @ 4:53 am. Filed under Politics

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for 24 hours you know that Barack Obama is now the President-elect of the USA, and will be our 44th President

As a staunch liberal it’s thrilling that we’ve cast off any vestige of the last 8 years of incompetence and stupidity. (Except perhaps for Alaska, which seems set to re-elect a convicted felon to the Senate)

Hopefully we can move forward from here and be part of the global dialog, rather than trying to control that dialog.

October 25, 2008

Madelyn Dunham

by @ 6:50 am. Filed under Politics

I feel that Madelyn Dunham is one of the most important names in current US politics.

I know, I can hear the responses now, “Who?”, “She’s not even running”, “She’s just an old woman”, etc.

But what is truly amazing and different, is that this woman who turns 86 tomorrow has for two days become the single most important thing in the mind of Barack Obama.

2 weeks before election day, in the middle of a close presidential race, Obama is dropping out of his campaign and flying home to be with his sick grandmother that raised him.

Show me something that shows more “Family Values” than that.

It’s uncertain if it will cost him the election (some polls show the race extremely tight, some show it 10 points in Obama’s favor) and i’m sure some will say it’s a calculated ploy, but we have to stand and appreciate the fact that he’s doing it.

If I had to make a choice between a ploy to get votes of smearing my opponent or visiting a sick family member there would be no debate, i’d go do the visit. I feel people have a responsibility to live the values they try and tell others about, not just talk the talk.

I hope at some later day a politician looks back on this move by Obama and says, “Let’s be more friendly, more positive”, because our country badly needs that restraint.

October 22, 2008

The changes, they are coming.

by @ 8:09 pm. Filed under Personal, Politics

What does the future of politics (the next 40 years) hold? Let’s look into the magical crystal ball of current events and history and see if we can pull out any tidbits.

#1 The debate over gay marriage will die. Just like segregation died out as younger people grow up without considering that it’s a big deal it stops being a big deal. Many young people view this as silly as if you are saying a black man and a white woman have no right to marry.

#2 Religion will eventually move out of politics. As above young people are not turning to religion like previous generations. http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2007-08-06-church-dropouts_N.htm (One story of hundreds)

#3 Abortion will stop being a major issue. Once again, younger people do not consider this to be such a black/white moral topic the way older generations do. Hence it will stop being a divisive issue in politics as time goes on.

#4 The USA will have socialized medicine. The number of younger workers (18-35) in the US without healthcare keeps steadily growing, employers are not offering it like in the old days, and employment is not as stable as it has been in the past. Eventually as this issue grows it will reach a head and something will be done about it.

#5 Islam and Muslims will not be considered “evil”. Just like the Japanese were hated during WWII and the Soviets during the cold war this too shall pass. They are not the inherently evil group that current thinking has painted them out to be.

#6 Gasoline will be 5$ or more per gallon. Don’t expect OPEC to play nicely now that it’s seen demand stays high with 100$ per barrel oil. Even if we start drilling everywhere in the USA younger folks are more willing to look for alternatives, they are also more willing to accept taxes in order to help the environment.

I do not see any reason at this time to predict that people born in the next 20 years will be any more conservative than the current 18-35 year old age group. Some massive world event might change this, but I can’t see what it could be. Along with the recent finding that people get more liberal as they age: http://www.livescience.com/health/080310-liberal-seniors.html

That’s as much as I can be certain of anyway (IE. *I* feel confident enough in the above to put money on it.)

October 12, 2008

Congress questions high cost of texting

by @ 7:01 am. Filed under Business, Personal, Politics, Technology

I know this is a tad old, but I wanted to to make mention of it nonetheless. So much for a free market spurring competition.

Congress questions high cost of texting

By Stephanie Condon
September 9, 2008 4:25 PM PDT

The price of text messaging has doubled industry-wide in the last three years, and Congress wants to know why.

Sen Herb Kohl, chair of the Antitrust Subcommittee in the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter Tuesday to the four major wireless carriers–AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and T-Mobile–asking them to explain the dramatic price increases for text messaging services.

“Some industry experts contend that these increased rates do not appear to be justified by any increases in the costs associated with text messaging services, but may instead be a reflection of a decrease in competition, and an increase in market power, among your four companies,” Kohl said in the letter.

The cost of text messaging since 2005 has increased 100 percent from 10 cents to 20 cents for all four providers. Mobile operators have reaped huge profits from the increased prices, CNET reported in July.

Also, the number of major carriers in the United States has shrunk from six to four in recent years, while the remaining carriers continue to acquire their regionally based competitors, Kohl said in the letter. He noted that the four carriers combined currently serve more than 90 percent of wireless subscribers in the U.S.

“I am concerned with whether this market consolidation, and increased market power by the major carriers, has contributed to this doubling of text messaging rates over the last three years,” Kohl said.

The senator from Wisconsin asked the companies to provide evidence of how their respective text messaging pricing structures differs from those of their competitors, along with evidence of what factors led to price increases. He also asked the wireless carriers to provide data on the utilization of text messaging from 2005 to 2008 and a price comparison of text messaging services to other services such as Internet access over wireless devices. Kohl asked for a response by October 6.

The similar price increases, coming at similar times, Kohl said, “is hardly consistent with the vigorous price competition we hope to see in a competitive marketplace.”

September 9, 2008

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

by @ 10:43 am. Filed under Business, Politics

As I have said before, only socialism for the rich.

The government only steps in and takes control of things when it benefits rich people.

July 14, 2008

Gas Guzzling

by @ 8:57 pm. Filed under Business, Politics

What is up with the price of gas?



By C. Marcus Parr




Who’s responsible for rising gas prices?



Asking this question makes sense when we’re paying so much to fill the tank. Seven years ago, the price for a barrel of crude oil was $30. It recently reached a high of $137. Oil not merely doubled or tripled in price during President Bush’s administration, but more than quintupled.



In all fairness, the staggering cost of gasoline cannot be laid solely at the feet of George W. Bush. Several factors are at play the falling value of the U.S. dollar, a diminishing supply (or scarcity) of oil versus rising demand, and speculators in the futures market.



The dollar has lost about 60 percent of its value against the euro over the last seven years. It has lost even more value against gold and petroleum. When the dollar drops in value against foreign currency, Americans pay more for a barrel of oil on the international market.



Alternatively, when speculators set oil futures at $130 a barrel, we pay more at the pump and the United States trade deficit increases. Our annual oil import bill has risen from $106 billion in 2006 to approximately $500 billion today.



Are speculators at the root of this problem? According to T. Boone Pickens, legendary Texas oilman, the futures market is not a ‘bubble’ about to burst. Oil futures are rising because of scarcity and high demand, not speculation. George Soros, the hedge fund billionaire, counters Pickens’ argument by saying the global oil price explosion is caused by commodity futures speculation. He believes that speculation is exaggerating the true price of oil.



Are we running out of oil? Some say we’ve already passed Peak Oil. Finding and extracting crude has become difficult for oil companies. Today, worldwide demand for oil is outpacing production.



No matter which view is right or who is at fault, the world economy runs on gasoline and we’re burning it faster than we can pump it out of the ground.



We need to reduce our energy consumption through conservation. This is a good policy for our pocketbooks and the environment. Commute with others. Use mass transit. We have a marvelous bus system in Sandy: Fareless SAM. It’s clean, it’s safe and it’s free!



Save energy by making your home more energy-efficient: insulate, put in new windows or passive solar systems and buy energy-friendly appliances. We need to buy local produce and goods rather than imported goods. Many of us already have vegetable gardens or shop at local farmers’ markets. Yes, it’s true that conservation will take a major change in the way we live, but these habits will pump money into our local economy, help conserve energy and help build a sustainable community.

The New Yorker

by @ 6:26 pm. Filed under Politics

The other day the New Yorker magazine published it’s July 21, 2008 issue, with cover art by artist Barry Blitt. (Shown below)



It shows Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama dressed as a Muslim and his wife as a terrorist.


The magazine says “the cover is meant to satirize the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the presidential election to derail Obamas campaign”.



But with how stupid the US populace is, do you seriously think they will realize it’s a joke? Especially when there is nothing printed in the magazine that explains or relates to the cover art. The comments from the publisher above came out only after they were questioned regarding the image.



July 13, 2008

Apathy

by @ 6:38 pm. Filed under Personal, Politics

So I try talking to one of my co-workers about the new TSA regulations. And no matter how bad a theoretical situation I bring up he says:


“I don’t care, they can do whatever they want for my safety”


Why oh why are people so willing to give up their freedoms for thinking they are safer?

On Conservatives and Liberals

by @ 5:44 pm. Filed under Business, Politics

So I’ve been noticing more and more the rift widening.


And I’ve really been wondering, why?


I’m going to list it as I see it.



#1 Conservatives believe they have a god-given right to anything and everything.


Think about it, they want to anything no matter how bad it is, they want to drive huge cars that get bad gas mileage, they don’t care about the environment, they want to keep every cent of every dollar they ever make for themselves.


In short, they don’t like anyone telling them they have to do ANYTHING.


Why? The USA has become the land of absolute individualism, “Do what you want as long as it directly doesn’t hurt anyone else”, but what about indirectly hurting others? When did that stop mattering? We just think “Gee, that’s not my concern” and go on with our wasteful consumer culture figuring it’ll all work itself out, and we don;t have to be part of the solution.



#2 Liberals see a moral reason to be concerned about indirect hurts.


My car hurts the environment, my choice of hiring illegals or not hurts them and the economy, my bad business tactics are morally hurtful.


Many people seem to think this is somehow weakness, “They just feel guilty for everything”, but in reality it’s an enlightened view that we cannot just care about ourselves.



#3 Money


The USA teaches you that money is hard to get, it’s rare, and you’ll have to work your ass off for it. Along with that you have to pay a ton of money to go to school, so once you have paid for your school you have no desire to make less than possible.


Is this the only way? In Denmark for example school is free.


Yep, it costs nothing to go to school.


If I went to school to learn how to do what I really wanted to do, would there be a learned behavior to somehow feel I needed to earn a ton of money? Highly doubtful.



#4 Welfare


Conservatives do not believe in “Externalities”. They like to believe that all the people that are poor, homeless, on welfare, etc. want to be there. “If they don’t want to be poor they would just work harder”. In truth why should they have to? So long as they are contributing members of society in some way why shouldn’t we help them to have at least a basic level of comfort?




#5 Taxes


It’s an evil word, I know. The forced redistribution of wealth.


But how is it that we still love Robin Hood?


He stole from the rich and gave to the poor, that’s exactly what taxes do, why? Because the rich don’t want to give up their money to help anyone else. Is it wrong for the state to force them to?


Liberals say morally it is our obligation to help others.


Conservatives see it as wage slavery, that they shouldn’t have to give anyone anything or have morals forced on them.



When are we going to start accepting that there is more to life than trying to get ahead for just ourselves and start living in the “United” States of America rather than the divided states of individualism?


Sooner than later I hope.

July 10, 2008

Something all US Citizens should be worried about

by @ 2:29 am. Filed under Crime & Justice, Politics

Your papers please…

TSA Announces Enhancements to Airport ID Requirements to Increase Safety


June 23, 2008


Beginning Saturday, June 21, 2008 passengers that willfully refuse to provide identification at security checkpoint will be denied access to the secure area of airports. This change will apply exclusively to individuals that simply refuse to provide any identification or assist transportation security officers in ascertaining their identity.


This new procedure will not affect passengers that may have misplaced, lost or otherwise do not have ID but are cooperative with officers. Cooperative passengers without ID may be subjected to additional screening protocols, including enhanced physical screening, enhanced carry-on and/or checked baggage screening, interviews with behavior detection or law enforcement officers and other measures.


Under the law that created TSA, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, the TSA administrator is responsible for overseeing aviation security (P.L. 107-71) and has the authority to establish security procedures at airports (49 C.F.R. – 1540.107). Passengers that fail to comply with security procedures may be prohibited from entering the secure area of airports to catch their flight (49 C.F.R. – 1540.105(a)(2).


This initiative is the latest in a series designed to facilitate travel for legitimate passengers while enhancing the agency’s risk-based focus – on people, not things. Positively identifying passengers is an important tool in our multi-layered approach to security and one that we have significantly bolstered during the past 18 months.



In short if you refuse to show ID as is your constitutional right you will not be allowed to fly, if you have lost it, or forgot it you will.


Why? We don’t know, since the Bush administration has made all TSA documents “Secret”. Nothing like being forced to follow secret laws.


Fascism anyone?

April 8, 2008

Texas Troubles for the FLDS church

by @ 10:45 am. Filed under Politics, Religion

Who would have guessed that the downfall of the Fundamentalist Mormon Church would come at the hands of the Texas Child Protective Services.
They’ve hauled away hundreds of children and arrested one adult. It’s definitely not a public relations win for the FLDS church. And it probably removes one-third of their cult members.
The cops are still digging for evidence, i’m dying to see what they found in the place.
I’m also wondering what other juicy bits of information and new cases they’re going to gain from all the children they took into custody.
Time will tell.

February 13, 2008

Woo-hoo! We’re ahead!

by @ 8:51 am. Filed under Politics

Last night Obama pulled ahead in the delegate count against Clinton. With 1,223 delegates versus Clinton’s 1,198.

He has also won 8 states in a row. Polls show that he has good odds of winning 10 in a row.

Even better exit polls show he’s pulling voters away from Clinton. People are beginning to talk about how he is appearing more and more “electable”.

I’m quite happy about this. 🙂

February 11, 2008

And so the tactics begin

by @ 8:52 am. Filed under Crime & Justice, Personal, Politics

This morning I see in the news:

"The Pentagon has announced charges against six Guantanamo Bay prisoners over their alleged involvement in the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US. Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for the six, who include alleged plot mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The charges, the first for Guantanamo inmates directly related to 9/11, are expected to be heard by a controversial military tribunal system."

This is being sent to “The Convening Authority” and will take a minimum of 120 days before they return a decision.

One must think about this situation tho, it’s been 6.5 years since 9/11. Most of these detainees have been held in Gitmo for over 5 years. There is no serious reason to think that they just now came up with enough evidence to begin a trial.

I feel it’s an obvious attempt to sway the electorate before the November Presidential elections.

Furthermore I think these tactics are only going to get worse as the election grows closer.

February 10, 2008

Children

by @ 8:52 am. Filed under Military, Personal, Politics

This morning I was listening to NPR, and one of it’s Valentines-themed stories. And it was talking to two female soldiers in Iraq and how they missed their babies.

And I began wondering, why is the attraction toward children so strong in the USA? For example, at one of my previous jobs I had mentioned I wanted no children and I was flatly told “Well, you’ll be a lonely old man”. Now beyond the fact that it was a statement amazingly devoid of tact it seemed to sum up the US feelings on kids quite well.

Other modern nations don’t have this tie as strongly as we do. The USA has a much higher birth rate than Europe, Canada, Australia and 90% of other “First World” nations as a whole.

Then I started looking very closely at the countries with the lowest birth rates. The list includes Germany, Austria, Italy, Monaco, Japan, Russia, Singapore, Greece and Switzerland. You might miss the pattern here, but I found it in a list of nations ranked by intelligence. In all versions of such a list that i’ve found online the USA is conspicuously absent.

Seems to make the future world portrayed in “Idiocracy” far more plausible doesn’t it?

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