Saturday, February 21, 2004

It's Only New Jersey

So the latest I'm hearing, is that the Bush administration, is proposing that millions of gallons of untreated waste and processed sewage, be released into the New Jersey's waterways during rain or snow storms.

EPA's sewage plan get's slammed

It seems to me that this is a case of not having the facilities to deal with waste product, and of taking the option to pollute over the option to fix the problem. So, here is my perspective...

Imagine, an apartment with one bathroom. Okay, now imagine for some inconceivable reason, there are 140 people all trying to live there. Obviously, a case of urbanism. But imagine the problem of 140 people all sharing one freaking toilet! So ya gotta build another toilet. Really, you need to build a lot of toilets, but who's gonna pay for it? Well, for some inconceivable reason, none of the 140 people want to pay. The only other thing happens... 139 people are going to be crapping out the windows and on the porch. That's gross.

When you start talking about the state of New Jersey...

You just gotta think about the choices being made. We could all pitch in and help pay for facilities, but that's tax. We could go capitalist and take it from profits coming from what undersized facilities there are, but that would be unfair to business, especially if the other option of passing the cost to the consumer, isn't feasible. The Bush administration has made it abundantly clear that they do not intent to raise tax, or enforce unfair regulations on industries. And now this... What other option is there? We all crap all over ourselves. Nice choice.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

A feeble attempt at "legalese" by a homophobe

I'm trying to understand the conservative hangup on gay marriage. I can understand the tax hangups because taxes have a direct impact on everyone, but gay couples getting married? Honestly - who are they hurting?

In my search for the answer I found this conservative opinion offered by Jeff Jackson. It's a little overstated so I will try to summarize to save you some time. Jackson, opens up with a bold statement... "In America you don't have the right to marry." He goes on to explain that marriage is a "side product" of a right that we do enjoy and refer to as religious freedom and that marriage, being a religious institution, is a benefit of the right to religion, but in itself, is not a right at all. The obvious assessment here is that "marriage, in it's most basic form, is not a government institution; it is a religious institution." Therefore, the government cannot define the rules of marriage. He further enforces this with a mention of the 1st Amendment, which he explains, prohibits the government from interfering with religious institutions.

However, he does bring up the point that governments, such as ours, that are based on religion have co-opted marriage as a "legally binding status that confers upon their people certain privileges (and in some instances punishments)"; which explains the marriage license and various government policies about legally married people.

I believe the point he is making is that the government can base statutory laws on religious institutions but they cannot manipulate the laws of the religious institution itself. It's the only point he makes really. He does make an effort to justify the point by diving into some far-fetched scenarios to prove that if marriage was a legally defined right, people would be forced, unwillingly, into marriages... So if you enjoy twisted logic, it's there for you, but really, the entire article brings up just that one lonely point, that the rules of marriage are off-limits to government, making all the appeals to government by gays moot.
Of course his point makes a pretty weak road block. For one, the government could easily provide the same legal benefits to gay couples based on a non-marital partnership without ever touching the "religious definition of marriage". Just call it a "family partnership" status available to any couple committed to a family unit. This way the state uses one set of rules and religions use another, no interference and no 1st amendment violations. This is already the case for my marriage... My wife is Roman Catholic and I'm Protestant. The ever uptight Catholic church refuses to recognize our marriage but the state does and as a result, we've enjoyed the legal benefits of being married for 20 years! (So, stick that up your religious ass..!)

Also, I can't help but point out that according to the 1st amendment logic that Jackson belabors in his article, the addition of a new Constitutional amendment to "define" marriage as a union between man and woman is actually a violation.

Anyway, although I have found an attempt to leverage existing rules to invalidate gay marriage, I have yet to find a logical motive for seeking the invalidation in the first place. So I ask again, what's the hangup? The best guess I can come up with is that the religious right is populated with homophobes and they just don't have the stregnth to admit it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The Pain Merchants

Amnesty International reports: US exports $20 million of shackles. The Bush administration approved the sale of torture devices to Yemen, Jordan, Morocco and Thailand. The total value of US exports of electro-shock weapons was $14.7 million in 2002 and exports of restraints totaled $4.4 million in the same period. I understand the advantages to allowing the sale, companies like Smith and Wesson stand to make a lot of money in this business, but shouldn't we excercise some kind of moral responsibility? The Pain Merchants

Current Conflicts

The United Nations defines "major wars" as military conflicts inflicting 1,000 battlefield deaths per year. In 1965, there were 10 major wars under way. The millennium ended with much of the world consumed in armed conflict or cultivating an uncertain peace. At the end of 2003, there were 15 Major Wars under way, with at least 20 "lesser" conflicts ongoing. the web site presents a list of current conflicts throughout the world...

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Public health care more effecient than private health care...?

Incomming stat... Paul Krugman reports...
Where is the money [spent on health care] going? A lot of it goes to overhead. A recent study found that private insurance companies spend 11.7 cents of every health care dollar on administrative costs, mainly advertising and underwriting, compared with 3.6 cents for Medicare and 1.3 cents for Canada's government-run system. Also, our system is very generous to drug companies and other medical suppliers, because — unlike other countries' systems — it doesn't bargain for lower prices. Krugman indicates he will talk more about alternatives for health care in future columns so keep an eye out...
Health of Nations

Thursday, February 12, 2004


What amuses me about creationists is the effort spent discrediting evolution by scientifically prooving it's imposibility, thereby sweeping aside the "impossible theory" and making room for what they basically explain to be a miracle...

...which is to say, true despite being impossible.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

50 Million Deaths

This is one of the charts I'm working on. Ultimatley, I'm looking for a way to put the threat of terrorism in perspective along with other causes death affected by the current administration. I created this version as a quick overall reference to causes of death world-wide.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Presidential Matchups

The race for the democrat ticket is getting interesting now. I kinda get the feeling that this is the closest we will ever get to having a choice. The elections in November will be stuck in that bi-polar lockup. That conversation I told you about in my last post was started by one of the conservatives having emailed a link to an AOL survey for testing your political alignment. You answer about three pages of questions, and then get a result; a list of presidential candidates. Each candidate is presented, showing a percentage of matches between their answers and yours.

I think it's an easy tool for anyone to sort out which of the choices makes the most sense according to your own positions on issues...

I know, I can't believe I said that either, but for as much as I can gauge from campaign issues, the test *did* present me with a new perspective on the race. The test then allows you to compare the candidates, showing all their answers.

... I printed out the web pages and marked them all up with a red pen while watching the primaries on TV.

Just for fun, I took the test again and left all the default answers (no opinion) and guess who matched my answers by 100% according to the survey..?

Actually, in all fairness to Slugger, I have to say all the rest of the democrats also matched 100% with my "default", "no opinion" answers... Bush was the only one who didn't agree with having no opinions... Either that or there's some kind of defect in the system - I hope the survey isn't using the new voting booth technology.


A discussion with some conservative clients

I just had a political discussion (not argument) with a client! :o ... Actually, it was in good nature and very polite, even though both people I was conversing with are Republicans, but one of my current favorites came up, the issue of wealth-distribution and the taxing of income vs the taxing of wealth. I tried to point out how if Bob makes $10 an hour and Jeff makes $5 an hour and if taxes are so unfair that Bob's take home is only $5 while Jeff gets $3, then I can see how Bob may get frustrated with his $5 advantage being reduced to a $2 advantage. Maybe Bob feels that the $5 advantage represents how much harder he worked than Jeff (which may or may not be the case). Anyway, I pointed out that if you bring in two more exhibits, Bob's can of spare cash amounting to say, $500 and Jeffs total spare change of 35 cents. You can see how much less of Bob's total security is being tractored compared to Jeff who can't even save $500 if all he gets after taxes and bills is 35 cents...

The client came back with a very assertive response... "But you can't make savings punitive."

Well, I wish I used that word more often because it stumped me, just enough for the conversation to roll on, without my response. Even though I know what she was saying, for some reason, that word... See, this is why I can't debate in public.

Anyway, I did get a chance to catch the roll-back on the conversation, to a point where I could reword my response and tack it on. I mentioned that you can apply the same rule to income - "is it okay then to make income punitive?"


I get soft and quiet sometimes during these discussions because I'm still trying to figure out the true picture and I'm sure there are plenty of people that know more about the details than I do. But I am getting closer, closer to being able to consider all the tacks.

There is one thing that these folks did bring up, the argument that the tax cuts on dividends help kick start the economy. I listened to what they said and it DID make sense. The tax-cut made moving the money around easier (shall I say less punitive...?) So the investors were more likely to move their money around. I guess I'll buy that. There we go, my bitter conservative pill for the day.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Declining middle-class? Sell cheap in bulk

Apple and Pepsi got a deal going where Pepsi drinkers may find codes in their Pepsi bottles for a free song download from the iTunes Music Store. Apple and Pepsi will be giving away 100 million songs during this promo zap, obviously aimed at the lucrative teenage music collectors. Pepsi kicked off it's multi-million dollar ad campaign last super-bowl Sunday.

You may have noticed, there's also a big deal going on in L.A. where lawyers from the entertainment industry are getting ready to rumble with the attorneys for Grokster and StreamCast in front of a three judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Interesting. The super-bowl Pepsi ad actually featured 20 teens who were sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for downloading music. I understand that these kids can pass around a lot of burn, but they spend their money too. I'm sure there are more kids buying CD's than ever before and I bet most of them are downloading and burning too. I just can't see how an entertainment industry, fat enough to spend millions on all these second rate artists, can slap 14 year old kids with $3,000 lawsuits. It's kinda like the big school yard bully pushing around a little girl.

And like hell, 'they're loosing money'. What they're loosing is 'potential money'. Let's at least get that straight.

So the recording industry needs to turn the peer-to-peer networks into an advantage. So lawsuits, lobbies and deals. Now we have 99 cent downloads for individual songs. Everyone wins, which is a good thing considering the inevitability of it all. This is the future of marketing. Sell lots and lots of cheap things. This is the way producers will continue to harvest money even after the middle-class has sunken to the lower rungs of jobless despair. When many of these teenagers get older and hungry it will be impossible to get $20 out of them, but you just may be able to suck out 99 cents, not a bad deal for an industry already switching out it's tackle for smaller fish in much, larger quantities.

Apple-Pepsi Deal
Wired News on the P2P Case



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Books That I am Reading:

The World Is Flat
A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

Thomas Friedman

In this book Thomas Friedman continues his exploration of globalization and how the playing feild is leveling out.

War on the Middle Class
How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back

Lou Dobbs

This book is pretty much a print version of his TV program. This is what I call good investigative journalism

Books That I've Read Lately:

Catcher in the Rye


My daughter is an avid J.D.Salinger fan and turned me on to this book. I'm glad she did. I read the first half on one airplane trip and finished the next half on the return flight. Salinger's naration is wonderful, his vivid style reminds me of Steinbeck.

Crash Proof
How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse

Peter D. Schiff

I've been reading the writing on the wall for some time now about the comming economic collapse and this book is one of those messages. I highly recomend this book for anyone interested in an easy to understand explanation of what is causing the crises and basic strategy for how to weather the storm.

A Peoples History of the United States: 1492 - Present

Howard Zinn

This book seems to draw a lot of criticism from people who point out that Zinn fails to present the complete picture, but I think that's the point. Zinn is simply filling in the gaps intentionally left by "politically correct" historians and in so doing, he sheds light on some of the real American heros who continue the "politically incorrect" American Revolution to this day. These heros are not the celebrated leaders and soldiers of the American Establishment who took the reins of exploitation from the British Establishment but the working class people who continued to stand up to exploitation regardless of what banner they wave. It's these working class people who continue to fight for liberty and justice and it's these unsung heros that we need to thank for our way of life and we can thank Howard Zinn for pointing them out, especially now that patriotism has somehow come to mean loyalty to a flag rather than to a principal.

Paradox Of Choice: Why More Is Less

Barry Schwartz

An interesting counter-view to the ever-so-popular notion that our vast array of options improves our culture.

Why I Am A Reagan Conservative

Edited By: Michael K. Deaver

I'm reading this book because I don't consider myself to be conservative. I suppose this is because I've been focused for so long on issues around which conservatives hold positions that I disagree with. But recently I've been looking beyond these issues in search of what I might agree are valid conservative positions and it seems the more I look the less I find, which is alarming to me considering the influence that conservatives have over the policies that effect our lives. Hopefully this book will provide me with some insight.

The Ayn Rand Reader

Ayn Rand: Edited by Gary Hull

I know, I know... what is Ayn Rand doing on this booklist? Answer: I read from as many perspectives as possible. Being a free thinker, I refuse to submit myself to a reading diet. Besides, I want to understand what it is that Ayn Rand fans are raving about and what institutes like ARI are pushing into our education systems.

A Thousand Barrels a Second
The Coming Oil Breakpoint and the Challenges Facing an Energy Dependant World

Peter Tertzakian

I've been trying to understand as much as I can about the coming oil crises. The author is Chief Energy Economist of ARC Financial, one of the world's leading private equity firms focused on energy. As far as I can tell so far, his book isn't a crack on politics or doom and gloom but a straightforward analysis of the realities of energy that so many people are ignoring.

Myth, Magic & Mysticism in the Age of Information

Erik Davis

I've actually been reading the hardback version of this book, on and off, for long time now. The problem I have with this book is it's depth. Davis presents so many interesting ideas and references that I wind up placing a book mark and taking excursions into related materials. It can take me days to digest what Davis is saying in one sentence. Eventually, I always come back to the book, drawn in my Davis' poetic language of intellect. This book represents a true frontier for my mind.

The Moon Is Down

John Steinbeck

Steinbeck is always an easy read for me. His characters and scenes are so vivid. But this book in particular has the added significance of having had an extraordinary impact as Allied propoganda in Nazi-occupied Europe. Despite Axis efforts to supress it (in Fascist Italy, mere possession of a copy of the book was punishable by death) hundreds of thousands of copies were secretly translated into numerous languages, printed on unnaccounted paper and smuggled across borders. This story, a triumph of ideas in the face of cold steel and brute force, offered hope for the "unconquered" people under foreign occupation and celebrated the unbreakable spirit of free people. I feel like I should be sending copies to Iraqis currently under US occupation, but that could easily be construed as an act of terrorism.

Confessions of an Economic Hitman

John Perkins

I've been able to put two and two together for some time, so nothing in this book astounds me but it does bring the workings of the international banks and corporations as well as the US government out of the speculations of so-called conspiracy theories and into the matter-of-fact narration of one man's career path as an economic hitman.

How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed
Jared Diamond

Facinating book. Jared Diamond's name is what caught my attention as I was killing time at the bookstore at the airport. I was very impressed with his documentary "Guns, Germs and Steel" and figured he would make this study of societal destinies equally interesting. I was 100% correct. I especially enjoyed the chapters on the collapse of the Polynesian societies, realizing the scale-relativity with the evolution of our global society.

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Of course... the third book in my dystopian trilogy.

The United States of Europe:
The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy

An excellent perspective on the power that's rising in Europe as we Americans continue to sleep with visions of our own glory in our heads.

Imperial Ambitions:
Conversations with Noam Chomsky on the Post-9/11 World
Noam Chomsky, David Barsamian

As always, Professor Chomsky presents that calm and collected voice of logic that cuts through all the noisy rhetoric, half-truths, corporate funded media hype and emotionally driven spin sessions. Barsamian's interviews with Chomsky are clear, crisp and sober conversations.

Farenheit 451
Ray Bradbury

Figured I'd continue my journey through "negative-utopia" that I started with 1984. It does seem appropriate given the current state of America from which I found much more connection with Bradbury's vision than I did with Orwell's, especially the way in which the real source of oppression is not the government but the people themselves.

A New History

Richard Gott

Just a straight forward history book, but Cuba has a facinating history that reaches back to the days of Columbus and offers everything from pirates to revolutions.

George Orwell

It seemed like a good idea to refresh my memory of a mid-century perspective on where the world is headed. Although I found some relief in knowing that we have not followed the Stalinesque course to the letter, I nevertheless found much of Orwell's larger concepts ringing ever so true in 21st Century America, especially Orwell's concept of continuous war and Big Brother.

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
Greg Palast

Easy read... Palast is a circus ring master showing us unbelievable things. Penetrating investigation with a sense of humor.

One Market Under God
Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy

Thomas Frank

After reading the Lexus and the Olive Tree, I felt I needed a counter-balance view of globalization and how the liberated capitalism that I see everywhere around me, breaking the chains of regulation, is riding the globalization wave.

20:21 Vision
Twentieth-Century Lessons for the Twenty-First Century

Bill Emmott

The author, Economist cheif editor, tends to present very objective and slightly outside views of American economics/politics. I think this renders a more accurate assesment of how we fit in with the rest of the world. The book is a tour of the major forces of the 20th century with emphasis on how they are currently shaping the 21st century.

The Lexus and the Olive Tree

Thomas Freidman

Damned good book! Really opened up my eyes to what globalization is all about. Freidman's style of writing is engaging and his explainations are straightforward. I can see why people regard this book as the essential primer on the subject. I can also see why people think he is "pro-globalization" but I tend to think he's not so much promoting it as just pointing out the inevitability of it. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding globalization.

The Gnostic Gospels

Elain Pagles

I thought it was good. Explains a lot about the gnostic strain of Christain faith.


Edward O. Wilson

Facinating. From the moment he starts decribing the Ionian enchantment on the first pages. This book describes the interrelation of seperate bodies of knowledge and how it all comes together.

The History of Money

Jack Weatherford

Human culture is possessed and these are some involving stories about the demon we call money.

Other material of interest:

Origins of the Federal Reserve (PDF) - Murray N. Rothbard

Excellent account of the monetary imperialism that led to the creation of the Federal Reserve.

The Elkhorn Manifesto
R. William Davis

This is an open letter to Americans that provides a historical perspective on the U.S. government's prohibition of Marijuana. Without stating any position on that particular issue, I have nevertheless saved a copy of the letter here because of what I think are some valueable and verifiable references to to what I call the "corporate priority over the better interests of the nation".