Thursday, December 30, 2004

Our Miser-in-Chief

from The New York Times
We hope Secretary of State Colin Powell was privately embarrassed when, two days into a catastrophic disaster that hit 12 of the world's poorer countries and will cost billions of dollars to meliorate, he held a press conference to say that America, the world's richest nation, would contribute $15 million. That's less than half of what Republicans plan to spend on the Bush inaugural festivities.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Closing Libraries in Steinbeck's Hometown

from CNN
Facing record deficits, the City Council voted December 14 to shut all three of Salinas' libraries, including the branches named after Steinbeck and labor leader Cesar Chavez. The blue-collar town of 150,000 could become the most populous U.S. city without a public library.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Praise for the "Chilean Model"

from The Social Security Network
José Piñera, Augusto Pinochet's former labor minister, has spent recent years in self-imposed exile at the Cato Institute extolling the virtues of the privatization of Chile's Social Security system. Last week, the New York Times op-ed page allotted him abundant space for his now familiar rap about why the United States should follow Chile's model of pushing workers to depend primarily on personal investment accounts for their retirement income. But notably, he provided no facts or figures about what the upshot has been in Chile since it began privatization in 1981.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Happy Holidays

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Survey: Some Americans Favor Restricted Rights for Citizen Muslims

from Cornell News
About 27 percent of respondents said that all Muslim Americans should be required to register their location with the federal government, and 26 percent said they think that mosques should be closely monitored by U.S. law enforcement agencies. Twenty-nine percent agreed that undercover law enforcement agents should infiltrate Muslim civic and volunteer organizations, in order to keep tabs on their activities and fund raising. About 22 percent said the federal government should profile citizens as potential threats based on the fact that they are Muslim or have Middle Eastern heritage. In all, about 44 percent said they believe that some curtailment of civil liberties is necessary for Muslim Americans...

The survey...showed a correlation between television news-viewing habits, a respondent's fear level and attitudes toward restrictions on civil liberties for all Americans. Respondents who paid a lot of attention to television news were more likely to favor restrictions on civil liberties, such as greater power for the government to monitor the Internet. Respondents who paid less attention to television news were less likely to support such measures. "The more attention paid to television news, the more you fear terrorism, and you are more likely to favor restrictions on civil liberties," says Nisbet.
The Most Challenged

Monday, December 13, 2004

Trade Myths

from Free Market Fantasies
...Here there's another scam that you should keep your eyes on. What's called 'trade' in economics is a very odd notion. So, for example, if Ford Motor Company moves parts from Indiana to Illinois for assembly and then moves them back to Indiana, that's not called trade. But if Ford Motor Company takes parts made in Indiana and moves them across the border to Mexico--where you can get much cheaper labor and you don't have to worry about pollution and so on--and they get reassembled in Mexico, and then get sent back to Illinois for valuation, that's called 'exports and imports.' It never had anything to do with the Mexican economy, or in fact any economy; it was all internal to the Ford Motor Company, but it's 'exports and imports.' So how big an element is all that? Well, about 50% of US trade. So about 50% of what's called 'US trade' is internal to individual corporations...

If agreements like GATT increase what's called 'trade,' what it actually does is increases investor rights. That is, it increases the power of transnational corporations. You have to look pretty closely to figure out what the effect is on trade in any meaningful sense. For example, it may increase cross-border operations, but decrease trade in a meaningful sense of trade--meaning something that's not under the control of a kind of corporate mercantilism.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Iraqi Blogger "Riverbend" Reflects Popular Outlook

from Juan Cole
The...posting brings up questions about the Iraqi brothers who run the IraqTheModel site. It points out that the views of the brothers are celebrated in the right-leaning weblogging world of the US, even though opinion polling shows that their views are far out of the mainstream of Iraqi opinion. It notes that their choice of internet service provider, in Abilene, Texas, is rather suspicious, and wonders whether they are getting some extra support from certain quarters.

Contrast all this to the young woman computer systems analyst in Baghdad, Riverbend, who is in her views closer to the Iraqi opinion polls, especially with regard to Sunni Arabs, but who is not being feted in Washington, DC.
Brother, Spare a Brigade?

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times goes a little Michael Moore* in his attempt to find new recruits for Iraq in this interactive feature.
Economic Miracles

from The New York Times
As Chile's strongman from 1973, when he overthrew Salvador Allende, an elected civilian president, to 1990, General Pinochet presided over a purge of political opponents and the creation of a police state. But he also laid the foundations for what has become Latin America's most stable and promising economy - all, as the general's supporters have claimed, without ever stealing a dime.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Inventing a Crisis

from The New York Times
There's nothing strange or mysterious about how Social Security works: it's just a government program supported by a dedicated tax on payroll earnings, just as highway maintenance is supported by a dedicated tax on gasoline...

But since the politics of privatization depend on convincing the public that there is a Social Security crisis, the privatizers have done their best to invent one.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Study: Laptops Raise Scrotal Temperature Several Degrees

from ABC
The bottom of a laptop can reach temperatures of over 100 degrees. Put it near the scrotum? Dr. Sheynkin and his colleagues did. They found that simply holding the legs together in a laptop support position for an hour raised the scrotal temperature by almost four degrees. Adding the laptop for that hour raised the temperature by five to six degrees.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Revolution and Reforms

from ZNet
It makes sense, in any system of domination and control, to try to change it as far as possible within the limits that the system permits. If you run up against limits that are impassable barriers, then it may be that the only way to proceed is conflict, struggle and revolutionary change. But there is no need for revolutionary change to work for improving safety and health regulations in factories, for example, because you can bring about these changes through parliamentary means. So you try to push it as far as you can.

People often do not even recognize the existence of systems of oppression and domination. They have to try to struggle to gain their rights within the systems in which they live before they even perceive that there is repression. Take a look at the women’s movement. One of the first steps in the development of the women’s movement was so-called “consciousness raising efforts”. Try to get women to perceive that it is not the natural state of the world for them to be dominated and controlled. My grandmother couldn’t join the women’s movement, since she didn’t feel any oppression, in some sense. That’s just the way life was, like the sun rises in the morning. Until people can realize that it is not like the sun rising, that it can be changed, that you don’t have to follow orders, that you don’t have to be beaten, until people can perceive that there is something wrong with that, until that is overcome, you can’t go on.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Young People Ask:

  • Will phone sex under Patriot II count as a threesome?

  • Friday, December 03, 2004


    Thursday, December 02, 2004

    Of Red and Blue

    from Tatler
    What is the meaning of blue states vs. red states? As this article in Fortune indicates, there is a strong correlation between the red & blue electoral map and the fiscal map showing the federal gravy train. Citizens of some states pay more in taxes than they receive back from the federal government through grants, benefits, and subsidies. The imbalance for California, for example, reached $50 billion in 2003. New York and Illinois are other "donor" states. Alabama is the biggest "winning" state, reaping in a net of $100 billion between 1991 and 2001. The "winner" states during the same period received nearly $1 trillion more in federal benefits than they paid in taxes. "The huge gaps are driven by higher average incomes in the "donor" states, plus subsidies for farms, oil, mining --- "extractive" industries that skew red....The heist is more impressive considering that the winners have only a third of the U.S. population."
    Cowardly Broadcasting System

    from Stregoneria
    An open letter to

    Dear CBS,

    The irony of juxtaposing your statement on diversity with your decision not to air the advertisement from the United Church of Christ is staggering. You seem to have no problem with giving hate-mongering Christians--those who misquote the Bible to condemn gays--plenty of airtime through inviting them to speak on your news programs, and selling their PACs advertising during the election season, but a simple advertisement that argues that perhaps Jesus wasn't a bigot is too controversial for you to air. How do you sleep at night?

    I have wrestled with myself today as to the type of letter I should write to you. I wanted to make it respectful, to tactfully suggest to you that you reconsider your opinion, but I'm tired. I'm tired of hate being promoted as a moral value in this country while loving one's neighbor is depicted as a perversion. You have clearly cast your lot with the hateful bigots in this country. May you enjoy their company.

    You can inform your other advertisers that there will be one less viewer for "CSI." My hope is that I'm not alone, and there will be economic consequences for you in refusing to run the ad.

    You are cowards. Plain and simple. There is no diplomatic way to say it; there are no euphemisms. You are the Cowardly Broadcasting System. At least you don't need to change your call letters.

    Lorraine Berry

    Letter will be sent to NBC later today.
    Sign the petition.

    Wednesday, December 01, 2004

    What Mandate?

    by Noam Chomsky
    Turning to other areas, overwhelming majorities of the public favor expansion of domestic programs: primarily health care (80%), but also aid to education and Social Security. Similar results have long been found in these studies (CCFR). Other mainstream polls report that 80% favor guaranteed health care even if it would raise taxes – in reality, a national health care system would probably reduce expenses considerably, avoiding the heavy costs of bureaucracy, supervision, paperwork, and so on, some of the factors that render the US privatized system the most inefficient in the industrial world.

    Public opinion has been similar for a long time, with numbers varying depending on how questions are asked. The facts are sometimes discussed in the press, with public preferences noted but dismissed as "politically impossible." That happened again on the eve of the 2004 elections. A few days before (Oct. 31), the NY Times reported that "there is so little political support for government intervention in the health care market in the United States that Senator John Kerry took pains in a recent presidential debate to say that his plan for expanding access to health insurance would not create a new government program" – what the majority want, so it appears. But it is "politically impossible" and has "[too] little political support," meaning that the insurance companies, HMOs, pharmaceutical industries, Wall Street, etc. , are opposed.
    Unionize Wal-Mart!

    from The Wall Street Journal
    In a move that has been unsuccessful elsewhere in the U.S., 17 workers at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. automotive-service department have taken the first step to unionize at the world's largest retailer. The National Labor Relations Board planned a hearing tomorrow to consider the workers' request to be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7. Union officials argue the workers in the Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Express are separate from the store and eligible for independent union representation. Wal-Mart officials disagree. "With approximately 400 associates in that particular facility, we feel that more than 17 associates should have a say on such an important matter," said Christi Gallagher, a spokeswoman for the Bentonville, Ark., company. Efforts to unionize Wal-Mart stores in the U.S. have failed, while in Canada, a government agency this year certified workers at a Quebec store as a union and told the two sides to negotiate. Wal-Mart has said it may have to close that store.
    Debate: Christian Morality

    from Meet The Press
    "I vote Christian. And I believe that he is pro-life, pro-family, pro-Israel, strong national defense, faith-based initiatives for the poor, et cetera. And George Bush fits the criteria for all of them. John Kerry met little or none of those criteria." -- Jerry Falwell
    No Bargaining Rights for Temporary Workers

    from The Washington Post
    Temporary workers will no longer be able to bargain for job benefits as part of a unit with permanent employees, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled, reversing a Clinton-era precedent.