Readers of this website may have noticed a none too subtle shift in what we’ve written about in the past year. As we have watched in horror at the ineffectiveness of Democrats to both get out their message and effectively prove countermeasure to the Bush Administration, we have come to the conclusion that our government has gone past incompetence straight to criminal negligence. As such, OutrageNation has begun to take a new direction, one where we are less than sympathetic to hapless Democrats even though at least 2 of us are registered in that party.
Unfortunately, we feel we can no longer rely on Congressional Democrats. Yes, we share a lot of philosophy with Democrats now in power. But what we find appalling is the lack of conviction and fortitude on display, especially among the leadership. Worse, we feel the quality of Democrats running for president is roughly on par with that of 2004. In other words, not good. And possibly worst of all, we feel Democrats are colluding with Republicans to bring this country and its citizens to the brink of ruin by ignoring looming entitlements and continuing to fund our hyper-militarization for fear of upsetting the apple cart.
This certainly does not let Republicans off the hooks. They continue to promote an impossible to win war and a losing social battle. Their lack of identity past national security will certainly hurt them in the coming years, failing a new terror attack, but the surprising lack of humanity among many candidates for higher office is equally frightening. While the Democratic candidates for president are no world beaters, the Republicans have shown to good effect the zombiefication of the party as they try to outflank each other on the right. They are across the board terrible and as a result, a disaster looms for a once great political party.
As we have targeted Democrats and Republicans who continue to sell out our futures in the name of military might, we cannot forget the corrupt corporations that poison us daily, be it in our food, water or air. These are led by knuckleheaded CEOs whose only allegiance is to the market and whose slavish devotion to increasing quarterly profits has led to American jobs being shipped overseas and cuts in pensions and healthcare coverage. While their workers get by on less, they milk their companies of every nickel in compensation and stock.
And participating in all this is the complicit corporate media, hated by both the right and left, but for different reasons. No longer purveyors of real news, corporate media, from the big 3 networks to CNN and FoxNews has fallen into the trap of celebrity smut and human interest “news” that has replaced reporting of important news stories. For hard news, we now have to turn to foreign sources like CNN International or BBC. That’s right, the dumbing down of America is complete.
So where does this leave OutrageNation? Perhaps more outraged than ever. The interests of everyday Americans have been sold to the highest bidder – from oil companies to big agriculture to the defense industry. And our government seems unwilling to deal with anything of real importance. Democrats and Republicans seem at a loss how to deal with an ever-more complex world, let alone our own domestic problems.
Time for the voices of reason to stand up and remind everyone what we are supposed to stand for. It sure as heck isn’t the unholy trio of feckless politicians with no vision, greedy corporations and overweight, disinterested Americans.(2) Trackbacks
Finally, there seems to be some broad recognition that partition in Iraq is inevitable. But General Petraeus is still pursuing counterinsurgency. How many more will die before our policy aligns with reality?
The conclusion to which conservatives like David Brooks have belatedly arrived ($) was carved in granite the moment the American viceroy, Paul Bremer, disbanded the Iraqi Army and with it any hope for a functioning central authority there. That was four years ago.
In the interim, around 3,000 American soldiers and marines and countless tens of thousands of Iraqis have died, perhaps 20,000 Americans (that we know about) and untold numbers of Iraqis are wounded or otherwise damaged, millions of Iraqis have fled their homeland, and millions more live in daily terror of their lives, terror that we and we alone unleashed.
The reality we are now starting to appreciate is that this place called Iraq was never really a country in the sense that we typically understand it. It was always either the property of a despot, or a colonial asset as it was under the British and before that, the Ottomans, under whom it was administered as three separate provinces, one Sunni, one Shiite, and one Kurdish. This information was publicly available in history books before the war to anyone who cared, a category that excludes the Regime and the MSM.
77 months without a reality-based foreign policy is taking a cataclysmic toll on lives, not just now, but for years to come. By pursuing counterinsurgency and resisting partition, General Petraeus postpones and thus draws out the paroxysms of violence the Iraqi region will experience as it returns to its partitioned state. There is no longer a central authority to prevent partitioning, and we are powerless to impose one.
In the power vacuum we blithely created, this partitioning is inevitably the state to which it will revert. But our forces in Iraq are actively swimming against this tide and in so doing, raising the final body count. If this is all we can do there, then it really would be better for everyone if we would just leave. Now.
The reluctance of nearly all our political leaders to acknowledge this stark reality is leading this blogger to conclude, also reluctantly, that the best candidate the Democrats can put forward might just be John Edwards. Does he mean what he says? Let’s hope we get to find out.(1) Trackbacks
I remember when spamming was a big topic of discussion. The government even weighed in, in its patently useless way. These days we don’t hear anything about how to solve it. Meanwhile, we slog through piles of it every day. So I have decided to reignite the debate. Simply put, we need the death penalty for spammers.
You may call that extreme but these are people who have no respect for anyone’s privacy nor a shred of decency. In their least offensive guise, they are purveyors of junk, akin to the infamous snake oil salesmen of the past. Post-modern hucksters, if you will. In the most pernicious form, they are creeps who send a steady stream of sickening junk, smut ads and the like. They send millions of messages, some so non-sensical that you wonder if there is a point, in the hopes that a few thousand click through and make a purchase. These few thousand unknowingly support the spammers and they should be flogged regularly for encouraging the abuse of the rest of us. But I digress…
The rule should be simple - no one can send you anything that you did not sign up for. Period. Of course the government passed the Can Spam act which did nothing but in a sense legitimize the practice - and to add to the insult overturned more stringent state laws. Of course, they decided against including the basic rule I just stated since the law was clearly written by idiots. I would suggest flogging them too, but I’m sure the secret service would disapprove. Perhaps the Democrats will do something on this issue, though I for one am not holding my breath.
What are the costs of spam? It’s hard to find true numbers but I have seen one estimate that by 2007 it will be $198 billion. That’s just for companies. Forget your own productivity, time and possibly fees you pay for anti-spam programs. That is untold hours and money that companies don’t even care to research. Even searching for current info on the web doesn’t really provide an answer. They told us technology would solve the problem while it only gets worse.
A spammer is an anti-human slug. He sits in his underwear all day, watching his investments on one screen and sending batches of email off other servers so he can’t be tracked. Maybe he is American and maybe not. If he pays taxes, it is a miniscule amount. He does not contribute to society and is basically a waste of space. The resources necessary to keep him alive can better be spent on someone who actually is a valuable member of society. Not a liar and a thief.
So I would convict anyone who is a spammer, spoofs legitimate companies or steals server space and bandwidth of offenses against humanity. Perhaps we can even air the electrocution live on the Internet. First, of course, we should attach a penis pump to him, give him some phony meds and have the Nigerians clean out his bank accounts. Then we hit the switch. No more spam!(2) Trackbacks
It eats at me every time I see it. But it’s gotten far more annoying now that the Democrats have miraculously overcome Republican gerrymandering and fearmongering to prevail in the Congressional elections just past.
I’m talking about the framing of American political debate. As a hybrid socialist (there’s no such thing as a “free” market) and a social libertarian (prohibition has never worked and never will), you would think I would be most offended by the persistently pejorative association with the word “liberal”. Almost every time that word appears in print, the context suggests aberrant, deviant, or even extreme. But that’s not what bothers me most. After all, how well have we been served by “liberalism”?Rather, what really gets me exercised is the characterization of “conservative”. It’s a profound insult. Let me explain.
One of the reasons that the bully pulpit of the presidency is so important is that it defines what I call the fulcrum of political debate in this country. The president’s position becomes normative in the media, no matter where it actually falls on the political spectrum. If the president is a delusional nut job, like Ronald Reagan, who thought that President Grover Cleveland and the baseball pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander were the same person, that’s accepted. If a president, like Bush-baby considers the Bill of Rights to be a grave threat to our liberty, that becomes the legitimate establishment perspective. How could this be?
Ironically, it’s a structural flaw in our private sector news media, the so-called Fourth Estate. They require access to the halls of power to report the news, and if their reporting is unfavorable, they lose access in favor of other, more pliant media outlets, as we have seen with Rupert Murdoch’s Fox “News” and the Moonies’ Washington Times. In the UK by contrast, government owned media outlets like the BBC are guaranteed access (and an audience), so they, ironically, are more independent. And their presence assures most of the private media there that they too won’t be shut out, thus inviting a much wider spectrum of opinion in news reporting.
If the talking heads of the American evening news were, in the course of their reporting, to characterize accurately the Bush Regime’s assault on the Bill of Rights, then they would stand accused of unfair prejudice by [wait for it], the Bush Regime, the very same people working to repeal our rights. Yes, the logic of that statement is circular. And the result is Orwellian.
The news media must instead attempt to provide “balance” around this drastically shifted fulcrum of political debate. So we are treated to the spectacle of people discussing what possible objections any of us could have to repealing the Bill of Rights, or how serious an act of treason it is to oppose suspending habeas corpus for “terrorists”.
Where this plays out most insidiously and ubiquitously is in the shorthand notation of political positions: liberal, moderate, and conservative. In a 22-minute news show or a 2-minute news update, talking heads do not have any time at all to characterize positions with precision, much less to consider their dimension (I’ll come back to this later). So they are limited to single adjectives that orbit around the most immoderate Federal leadership in our history.
Here are a couple of recent examples, both of which have occurred since the 2006 election results became final. In an editorial, the New York Times praised the voters of Kansas for “[ending] conservative control of the Kansas State Board of Education, which tried to replace evolution with creationism in public school classrooms.” Let’s be clear about this. Someone who wants to teach creationism instead of evolution in the public schools is NOT a conservative. Such a person is a delusional right-wing zealot. I’m being nice. It is strongly arguable that such a person is psychotic, in that he or she does not cope with reality to an extent that results in a level of sociopathy. Characterizing this person as conservative is an insult to conservatives and conservatism. The definition of these words literally implies a strong and abiding connection to reality. Why don’t we say this?
Another example: numerous outlets report this morning that Bush is ignoring his recent call for bipartisanship by renominating six judicial nominees previously rejected as too “conservative” by the Democrats, and four new nominees. One of the new nominees previously served in the House as a floor manager prosecuting Clinton’s impeachment in the Senate. Enough said. In the Washington Post article, Senator Charles Schumer is quoted as accusing Bush of making a “sop to the right”, but the last paragraph actually uses that word again, “Conservatives...say [the nominations] will test Democrats’ commitment to bipartisanship.” Some of these nominations were not qualified, according the ABA. How is that “conservative”? How is that a test of bipartisanship? How is that not a sop to the right-wing? Oh, and how much space does the Post devote to the substance of the Democrats’ objections to these six nominees? Two vague sentences.
As if that’s not enough, pundits throughout the MSM (on Newsweek’s cover!) are falling over themselves to pigeonhole the freshman Democrats as conservatives, deprecating the mandate given them at the polls. Really? Their favorite example, Montana’s Jon Tester, opposes most new free trade agreements, wants our troops home from Iraq, does not oppose civil unions, favors federalizing health care and reregulating the energy markets. The man is a populist, hewing closely to the Democratic Party’s populist roots from the Great Depression. How are those views conservative?
Conservatism has gotten nothing but a bad rap for decades. The term has been expropriated to describe outright head cases, while real conservatives have become almost ashamed to show themselves. Anyone remember the term fiscal conservatism? Has our “conservative” Republican Congress ever shown any inclination in that direction? Ever? What was their biggest achievement? Creating a Medicare entitlement program that’s a sop to the pharmaceutical industry and a bigger unfunded liability than Social Security?
One would think that now that the American public has shown unequivocally that they want the Democrats to set the agenda, shouldn’t the news media move that agenda to the center? And wouldn’t it be great if the MSM made itself more relevant by acknowledging that the aspirations of the American people are more than one dimensional?
Let’s start calling a spade a spade. When you see the word conservative applied to people who clearly are not, get strident. Write your local news media outlets and complain. Loudly. If we don’t restore some real balance in America’s political dialogue, we’ll end up giving this all right back. Don’t think it won’t happen.(0) Trackbacks
I’ve read a lot of the September 11 handwringing in the NYT and elsewhere, and what’s amazing about all of it is that while most rue the lost opportunities, no one mentions the carnage. Absolutely amazing.
Everything about our response to 9/11 has been wanton and reckless, like a predator who gets poked in the eye. Rational thought went out the window on Day 1, even, or especially at Ground Zero. Ultimately, we will have killed more people in our reckless recovery at the site of the World Trade Center than were killed in the attack.
In the five years since, America has fostered hostility to ourselves, to the West, to democracy, to freedom, and to secularism with singular efficiency. More than 100,000 people are dead in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza, and who-knows-where-else. From the Muslim perspective, the Islamic world has paid and pays still, in blood, for America’s reckless and vengeful response to the wanton act of a handful. Now that we know for certain that Hussein despised al-Qaeda, how wrong is that perspective?
One of our own top government officials concedes that, “There is no plan for Iraq. There is no plan. No plan.” That country flirts with civil war. Our own military concedes that we have lost the war politically in Anbar Province. The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, killing hundreds and flooding the world with cheap heroin to fatten their coffers, while the British military commander there pleads for more troops. And to add insult to injury, Osama bin Laden himself lives in comfort, secure from American troops, circulating professional-quality videos to taunt us, and probably sustained by his own personal late model dialysis machine of American manufacture.
The missed opportunities and mislaid plans of which editorial writers complain are not abstractions. They are lost lives in numbers too painful to count. They are the dashed dreams of whole civilizations. There are places in the world more lethal than Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, or Palestine, but there is no hope that we can staunch that bleeding either so long as America’s reputation lies in tatters and our military is prostrate in Babylon.
Yes, it is a profound tragedy, perhaps the greatest of our lives, that the “unity of courage” from 9/11 has been squandered so, but for the families of the fallen, the tragedy is far more immediate than the rest of us can ever know. For those of us whose consciences are offended by America’s recklessness and our leaders’ single-minded political will, there is more to these wars than our wounded pride. Real lives are at stake. There are no stakes higher. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to mean by a “culture of life”?(0) Trackbacks
There are millions of little ways that technology makes our lives more pleasant and millions more that it could make our lives more pleasant still. But with the passage of time, it becomes increasingly apparent that, increasingly often, the principal impediment to adoption and distribution of beneficial technology is not the development of that technology but the hegemony of the holders of the intellectual property upon which that technology is based. It’s not that the technology doesn’t exist, it’s that the owners of the technology or the intellectual property won’t sell it to us at all unless they can be guaranteed an outsized share of profits. To put it succinctly, the problem is greed.
Let’s look at a non-lethal example. Consumer society columnist Rob Walker speculates in the New York Times Magazine ($ubscription required) why it is that Bluetooth headsets haven’t caught on with America’s under-30 crowd yet. Why is it that “Golf Course Guy” is leading the charge to adopt this technology, while it is the 11-year-olds who take the lead on almost every other technology innovation? Is it the over-the-top geekiness that even puts off the geeks? Is it the headset’s association with the rudeness of “business-world alpha chatter”?
Unsurprisingly, Walker literally misses the beat here. It’s not what Bluetooth headsets connect to that’s the problem, it’s what they don’t connect to: iPod music players. That’s partly the fault of the hegemony of Apple, the iPod’s maker. But mostly, it’s the fault of the copyright holders of the music that people under 30 want to hear. Or more broadly, it’s the fault of the legislators, our Representatives and Senators, who draft the laws that overprotect those copyright holders. Because of these laws, phones that incorporate music playing technology (not just Apple’s) are clumsy (awkward protection software), constrained (just 100 songs on an iTunes-compatible phone), and exorbitantly expensive. Few iPod users can make do with less than about 2 gigabytes of music, and most want at least ten times that amount. 100 songs won’t even get you to and from work in some typical New York commutes.
There’s simply no other acceptable reason to have your ears plugged all the time unless tunes are flowing into them. Making the ear pieces more fashionable or less geeky doesn’t solve the underlying problem at all.
Now let’s look at a lethal example. Prices for cancer drugs increased 16% last year. Already the most profitable businesses on the planet, pharmaceutical companies justify this by noting that drugs that save lives add enormous value, which is hard to dispute. Most people are worth far more alive than dead, unless they’re wealthy and the estate tax is repealed (we’ll save that for another rant). But is this pricing ethical? Should we tolerate what amounts to blood extortion for the sake of our capitalist fetish? Are the owners of the pharmaceutical technology really entitled to drive us into bankruptcy? Should they be allowed to withhold life-saving treatment if payment can’t be arranged? Don’t think that doesn’t happen; in cancer, treatment delayed is treatment denied.
And don’t get me started on AIDS treatment, anti-malaria regimens, vaccinations, and pain medications, to name just a few. Anybody remember the electric car?
Technology is ubiquitous today, so that everywhere we look, we see important technology development delayed or derailed by greedy marketing, patent disputes, and perhaps worst of all, improvidently granted patents. From Blu-Ray discs to business-method patents to biotechnology (gene patents!), the field of intellectual property has come to resemble the worst scenes of Baghdad bloodshed. And like Baghdad, it seems that no one has the moral compass to guide the combat to a resolution of benefit to society (that’s you and me).
If it hasn’t already happened, someday your life or the life of someone dear to you will depend on how we as a country manage our intellectual property and the extent to which we respect the value of shared knowledge that is implied in the First Amendment. When our political leaders craft a more authoritarian government and disrupt or choke off the flow of information, we tend to see the development as a mostly abstract intellectual exercise on a question of security. But it’s not. That authoritarianism is a direct, physical threat to your well being, and to the well being of everyone you have ever met. And not just because we don’t know, say, how or even if our chemical plants are secured against attack. It’s not just accountability, as crucial as that is. This kind of authoritarianism denies us the very tools we need to protect ourselves against any manner of physical threat. Not to mention access to our precious tunes.
Think about that the next time you read about a patent dispute.(0) Trackbacks
Now that the United States team has flunked out of the World Cup (we finished tied for 25th with Iran), it’s time for some reflection on the world’s most popular sport and America’s place in it.
For starters, I am at a loss to understand how the US was ever ranked fifth in the world. I think it was an effort to pique interest in the US market. It backfired. We should not have had inflated expectations of this team. They’re good in flashes, but they’re too inconsistent, and far too many things can go wrong in World Cup. I don’t want to get into the specifics of the American style of play; I’ll leave that for others. But four years from now, Americans will only remember disappointment and hype. That’s not the way to build support for a sport.
I would like to delve into the specifics of why soccer in general and World Cup in particular is offensive to American sensibilities. And I think that the objections are those not merely of Americans but of those of us with an outsider’s perspective. Just as we would benefit from heeding the perspective of outsiders, I think the soccer world would benefit from ours, to wit:
TIMEKEEPING: Apparently soccer is such an ancient sport, that their notion of timekeeping dates from before the 20th century. It’s fine for the referee to be the timekeeper, but it’s not OK for the ref and only the ref to know how much time is left in the game and to set the duration of the match arbitrarily. Nor is it OK for the clock to continue to run during stoppages in play. In the 19th century, they didn’t have stopwatches. Now they do. When play stops, stop the clock, and show everyone that the clock is stopped, and how much time is left. The technology to do this has been around for a very long time and is well-tested. “Extra time” is BS.
INTEGRITY: Even in World Cup play, the inconsistency of pivotal calls from game to game and even from moment to moment is maddening. We’re told that the World Cup referees were told to call the games more closely. But why should they call these games differently than any others? They should all be the same. Much can be done about this. Certainly, the decision to hand out cards can and should be left to a conference of the referee and sideline officials who view infractions on instant replay. Instant replay can also end the tragedy of disputed goals.
PENALTIES: A related topic--the consequences of a red card early in a game are far greater than late in a game. As a result, play is often more tentative early in a game than later. Not good. But a bigger problem is that players act like injured toddlers in an attempt to draw penalties against their opponents. To an American (or a Canadian, a Japanese, or a Korean), this behavior, acting really, is extremely offensive; I can’t overstate how much so. And I’ve never seen this behavior penalized. The problem has much to do with the need for an instant verdict from the referee, combined with the fact that unlike American football, basketball, and hockey, there is no free substitution. You can’t sub the injured player out and then back in. And you can’t stop play for long enough to deal with even minor injuries. Partial Solution: if a player isn’t back on his feet within 30 seconds, he must remain off the pitch for at least five minutes. And that’s five minutes of actual playing time. Will that lead to intentional fouling of the best players? Doesn’t that happen already? Isn’t that what the cards are for?
SCORING: There is something fundamentally wrong when a high-scoring game is 2-1. Even life-long soccer fans complain about this. There should be an AVERAGE (a median, actually; the arithmetic average would be higher) of about four goals scored per game; half the games have more goals, half fewer. Any number of solutions present themselves. Allow more substitutions, I would say six instead of three. Create “blue lines” the way they had in the old North American Soccer League, and the way have it now in hockey. Limit offsides calls to infractions at the blue line and upon entering the box.
TIES: FIFA clearly recognizes that ties are a problem, because they award only one point for a tie and three for a win in group play. I’ll get to the evils of group play in a moment, but ties should be rare, and should never occur in a playoff like the World Cup. Scoring reform will help cut down on the incidence of ties, but that won’t be sufficient. Solution: sudden death overtime, in which two players go off for each side (nine on a side instead of eleven, opening the field), two additional substitutes are permitted, and players subbed out during regular time can return as substitutes in the overtime. Still no goal after 15 minutes? Send off two more players from each side, and allow two more substitutes. NO SHOOTOUTS.
GROUP PLAY: Stop it. Just stop it. It’s a joke. Even with concurrent games, teams still play in collusion. And it’s unfair. There are strong groups and, more scandalous, weak groups. Is Ukraine or Switzerland really stronger than Croatia, the Czechs, Paraguay, Poland, or the US (or any number of teams, like Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, or Turkey, that didn’t even qualify for World Cup play at all)? Please tell me that Argentina and Netherlands played at their top level in the concluding game of their group after both had clinched spots in the next round. Teams should play only to win, every time, and absolutely never in collusion. And teams should only advance on a win, never on goal differential or some other BS tiebreaker. Solution: institute a double elimination format, as is used in volleyball, fencing, rowing, and lots of other sports. The College Baseball World Series is a double elimination format. Repechage, as it’s called, from a field of 32 to a field of 16, then single elimination to the championship and a consolation game would yield 56 games. Reseed the teams in each round based on record, goal differential, and goals scored in the previous round. And those 56 matches can be played with no need for concurrent scheduling. If we add a round of repechage to get the field from 16 to 8, then the total number of games climbs to 68, four more than now, again with no need for concurrent scheduling. Everybody gets to see all the live action of every game.
So how about it FIFA? Bring the game to the 21st century? Or continue to do without the world’s most lucrative market? Perhaps it’s just as well that the world need not tolerate American hegemony on the pitch. American hegemony on the battlefield is plenty bad enough.(0) Trackbacks
Okay, who thinks Jon Stewart was great as an Oscar host? Not me… And the show sucked too.
Time to rethink these hapless, out of touch awards shows. They are so dull, so predictable and so self-absorbed, they make it a burden to be watched. And then, in typical Hollywood fashion, there is “the agenda”. No not THAT agenda. The one about getting your ass off the couch and going to the movie theater to pay $11 to listen to someone on their cell phone. Look at those big fancy movies… on our TV screens. Gee, that gave me a hankering for going outside. To Blockbuster to find something to put on my big screen.
Then there was the lame humor - the vile Ben Stiller gag, Jon Stewart’s feckless routine complete with labeling himself a “loser”, the makeup stunt, on and on. Not to mention the songs. Are they even songs? Certainly not in the tradition of Oscar winners. Remember when Hollywood made great musicals. Heck, remember when they made great movies? On the Waterfront, Casablanca, Sunset Boulevard, Citizen Kane… Those were movies made by studios. Now, they’re all independent movies that come out in the fall (except Crash) after we’ve been assaulted with robots, monsters and gun fire for 4 months. Anything seems good after that.
Okay, back to Stewart. All that happens in the world and he comes up lame with a Bjork/Cheney joke? At least the “campaign ads” were amusing. But most of the time he had nothing to say. I’d say Oscar is on life suppport. I don’t know if even Billy Crystal can resurrect it.(0) Trackbacks
This year marks the beginning of the second half century of America’s ignominious and cataclysmic war on public education. The pathetic and severely underfunded Every Child Left to Fend for Herself Act is only the latest salvo in that war.
The New York Times’s Brent Staples has penned a rather lucid essay on this topic. The failure (I’m being nice) of education in America is not only an artifact of deep-seated racism and classism, but also, as Staples points out, an artifact of our parochialism and xenophobia. Notoriously, we Americans think we have nothing to learn from the rest of the world. There is no endeavor in which such delusional provincialism is more dangerous than in the education of our children.
Even those of our children who stay around long enough to graduate high school typically find themselves two and three years behind their peers in almost every other industrialized country, and a good many that aren’t industrialized, like India. Many American schools suffer the indignity and outright sabotage of school administrators and even teachers who actually believe their students incapable of high achievement. We as a nation steadfastly resist the idea that teachers are supposed to be trained professionals and compensated as such, that the role of teachers is absolutely critical (more so than ever) to our country’s future, or even (most incredibly) that teaching is itself a science.
That last point might be the nub of the problem. Our centuries-old legacy of anti-intellectualism might doom any serious effort at educational revolution in America, because we actually think that teaching is a craft, that the mechanism of learning is not reducible or responsive to scientific methodology. And make no mistake, that’s what it will take to save American education, not reform, but a revolution.(0) Trackbacks
So I went to the post office yesterday. Man, was that a mistake. What is this the third world I thought?
Here’s an issue that can unite the warring sides of the political spectrum. The Post Office stinks. Yeah sure they move a lot of mail impressively. But try and send that mail. What a joke.
I walk in and of course it looks like some commie-chic P.O. except the ones I’ve been to in Poland have all been renovated! So a guy comes over to me and talks to me while I’m on line. He says I can weigh my package and get a stamp in the machine. Oh, okay, do they take credit cards. No, sorry. WHAT THE HELL? Is this the 70s. I have to wait on line- which stretches completely through the P.O. almost to the street and they have 4 no wait 3 no 2 windows open! At 5:30pm?
What kind of sick joke is our postal system anyway? Every time I go into one here in NYC there are a ton of people on line. And few people to serve. Some have these gigantic machines that you can use to weigh packages, buy postage and they accept debit/credit cards. But not all, not my neighborhood one. Of course, the guy who tried to help me confirmed that the P.O. is going to pull even those machines because they don’t always charge the cards. Fat chance that ever happened to me.
How about this? Rip out all the counters. Put in something that works for the airlines- atm machines where you do the work and someone helps you if you need to. You know, e-tickets. If our hapless airlines can do it, anyone can. Gotta be better than this awful system we have now.(0) Trackbacks
Do you even know? It’s astonishing to me how many otherwise rational people have been taken in. Yesterday, it was revealed that Little Putz, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, would spend almost $47 million of his multi-billion-dollar personal fortune to secure his reelection, on track to be a record for any political office short of the presidency. That will easily come to more than $50 per vote. And of course, he skipped a debate. Why? Because he could. With his vast wealth, he doesn’t have to play by the rules that constrain every other candidate. One rule for the wealthy, one for the rest of us.
By itself, the fact that he is ignoring the city’s election laws is reason enough to vote him out. Unfortunately, it’s not the only reason.
Let’s start by analyzing the most prominent claim on his slick TV ads, that he undertook all these law enforcement initiatives to make New York the safest big city in America. Where do I begin? First, New York is the safest big city in America because it is the biggest big city in America. As such, it includes a large number of communities that would otherwise be placid suburbs. The crime rate in Little Neck in Queens is about the same as in Great Neck, across the line in Nassau County. If the city of Boston were expanded to include the close-in suburbs of Brookline, Cambridge, Somerville, Chelsea, Revere, Everett, and Quincy, then Boston would be the safest big city in America. If Chicago were expanded to be as wide from east to west as it is long from north to south along Lake Michigan, then it would be the safest big city in America. Second, the law enforcement initiatives for which Bloomberg takes credit were actually the ideas of his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, who was first appointed by the most underappreciated mayor in New York’s history, David Dinkins, more than a decade ago. It was Dinkins who presided over the reversal in the City’s historic crime rate. And do I really need to mention the latest Tom-Ridge-style election-season terrorist alert for the city’s subways?
In almost any other place on earth, the reelection effort of a mayor who raised property taxes by 18% in a single year would be dead on arrival. He has done nothing to remedy the inequity of that tax as it severely penalizes apartment dwellers and small co-op and condo owners. His billion-dollar giveaways to large corporate real estate developers are legendary and ceaseless.
But the biggest reason to send this putz back to the private sector is the Faustian bargain he made to become mayor in the first place. I am constantly hearing about how Bloomberg has been good for New York. So it’s left to me to point out that former Democrat Bloomberg is the single largest donor to the George W. Bush presidential campaign. His insistence on hosting the Republican National Convention in New York materially aided the Bush campaign (and its timing violated election laws in two states and DC). Any good that Bloomberg may have done for New York is more than negated by the Bush presidency. Is it morally tenable for us to have a mayor who materially supports a president that has done so much to invite further terrorist attacks, while sending the funds to defend New York to more loyal voters in Wyoming? Should we endorse a mayor who endorses a president who hates us personally, politically, and in virtually all matters of policy? Has Bloomberg’s stewardship of New York compensated for the raw deal New Yorkers get from the Bush Regime in matters of security, healthcare, education, taxes, and the deficit? I would venture not.
Bush only barely won in two elections that were both fixed. Bush is a war criminal. How is it tolerable that in a city that was attacked by terrorists that we countenance a mayor that actively supports such a government, a government that believes it is not bound by international law?
Mark Green, the Democratic candidate of four years ago, probably would have been a lousy mayor. But the role of the Federal government in today’s chaotic world has proved to be of far greater material importance to New Yorkers than any mayor in memory. It was the great boom of the Clinton economy that pulled scores of New York communities out of poverty in the 1990’s. Our tightly interconnected world means that as America goes, so goes New York. Short of secession, the least we can do is stand up for principal and vote for Fernando Ferrer. Or doesn’t principal have any value any more?(0) Trackbacks
In a mayoral candidate’s debate, New York’s City Council President Gifford Miller refused to say whether he would send his children, now 3 and 4 years old, to public school. That has raised the issue of whether the wealthy should patronize our public schools, but as usual it’s the wrong question. The real question is why we tolerate a public school system whose standards are far, ridiculously far, below the standards of almost every other industrialized country, and what are we doing about it.
This, as I keep saying, is the most important issue in America. Our country declared war on its public schools fifty years ago, and the schools are losing. Badly. In no industrialized country are teachers so poorly paid and esteemed relative to the general population. In almost no other industrialized country can anyone graduate the 12th grade without calculus, a foreign language, and a depth of understanding of history that puts almost every American to shame.
Each and every one of us owes every child in America a world-class education. Our democracy will survive nothing less. If that means we have to double our investment in education, then we have to double it. This is a national security issue. And it is our most important economic issue, because our workforce is not sufficiently competitive to maintain our way of life.
By itself, it is reason enough to pull the troops out of Iraq and save the $80 billion plus per year for our children and our posterity. And don’t get me started on that free-for-all raid on our Federal treasury also known as tax cuts for the wealthy.(0) Trackbacks
I could hardly agree more with Harvey Araton’s diatribe in the New York Times. I said at the time that for the Red Sox to give up on Pedro Martinez was a bigger mistake than giving up on Roger Clemens. Now the second pillar in that black Dominican triumvirate appears poised to fall as Manny Ramirez has asked yet again to be traded. Would he be asking to go if the Red Sox hadn’t given up on his buddy and, in many ways, mentor? How likely is it that David Ortiz will stick around when his contract is up? How far in front of the AL East would the Red Sox be now if they still had Pedro instead of, say, Matt Clement and Wade Miller? 5 games? 8?
And what is the response of Red Sox fans to the news that the man who carried them to their first World Series victory in 86 years wants out? They boo the guy. No banners of “Manny, Please Don’t Go”. The guy’s on pace to drive in 146 runs and the racist fans of Boston think he’s a bum. Yes racist. You think Manny would get such a uniformly hostile reaction if he were white? Would he have been made to feel so unwelcome if he were white? Would he have been put on waivers before last year if he were white?
If the Red Sox accept the ignominy of the latest proposed deal that amounts to two skateboards for a Mercedes Benz, then they deserve every insult the Yankee fans hurl their way.(0) Trackbacks
It has long been known that most PC users the world over are increasingly frustrated by the rapidly rising pandemic of spyware, adware, and viruses afflicting their computers and the Internet, a problem that causes vast economic losses to the global economy each year. Now there is mounting evidence that large numbers of people are actually throwing away their computers for no other reason than their infection by all this malware. Our landfills are filling up with the toxic waste of discarded PCs, machines whose physical function is perfect, for no other reason than that the software that runs on them is corrupted and defective. And that software is Microsoft software.
After all, you don’t hear much about Macintoshes getting bogged down by viruses or spyware, because it rarely happens. And it rarely happens for two reasons. One is that Microsoft has an ironclad monopoly, thus making malware composed for Microsoft software far more effective and damaging. The other is that Apple software is by design substantially more secure. That’s not propaganda or scuttlebutt, it’s a fact. Or to put it another way, Microsoft software is by design insecure, that’s right, by design. The inherent insecurity of Microsoft software rises far above the level of sloth, to the point of malice and fraud. And while newer versions of their Windows operating systems are an improvement in this regard, they still contain several designed-in vulnerabilities such as open ports, and new vulnerabilities are discovered almost weekly.
As bewildered and irritated as many PC users are by the malware pandemic that afflicts them, most would nonetheless wonder at the depth of rage exhibited by many in the information technology community toward Microsoft and its leaders, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. After all, doesn’t Microsoft enable the computer industry? Don’t those of us who work in the computer industry owe our livelihoods to the existence of their products? The short answer is no, because computers, networks, and software would exist with or without Microsoft, and if Microsoft didn’t exist, something else, almost certainly something far better, would exist in its place.
Consider the following: to this day, most Microsoft operating systems cannot install most updates or “patches” without requiring a restart or “reboot” of the computer, a problem largely solved by would-be competitors of Microsoft as far back as the early 1980’s. And indeed, Microsoft actually recommends that PCs running their operating systems be rebooted at least once per month (a month being a stretch of unbroken uptime almost never achieved by Windows users anyway), while competing operating systems from more than 20 years ago ran for months or even years at a time without a reboot, as do modern computers today running variants of the Unix operating system.
So let me put the magnitude of this fraud in perspective. And let’s leave aside completely the issue of Microsoft’s pernicious monopolistic business practices and pricing. Each year, just from dealing with the defects in the software, Microsoft users lose hundreds of billion of dollars in lost time and data. That’s most people who use computers, which is most of the industrialized world, and a good portion of the developing world. In any other industry, that’s a Federal crime that would result in a vast multiple-count Federal indictment.
In New York, Bernie Ebbers just got 25 years for his role in an $11 billion fraud at Worldcom. He’s clearly mystified by the whole affair and feels very much the scapegoat because, and I believe him, he didn’t really know what was going on. But he was in charge at Worldcom, even if he was only its titular leader. He was responsible. He was the captain of the ship. If he lacked the expertise to manage the company’s affairs properly, he had a profound moral obligation to step aside. The magnitude of the misery and suffering caused by that fraud more than justifies that prison sentence. By contrast, nobody thinks that Gates or Ballmer are ignorant of any aspect of Microsoft’s stewardship. And by the Ebbers standard, Gates and Ballmer should each be put away for something like eight consecutive life terms.
Now you know.
P.S. In the last year, Microsoft has recognized they were taking a beating on this security issue, at least in the trade media, and their response has been typically mendacious. They have acquired some small companies with expertise in fighting malware in order to develop an in-house capability in this area. Soon, they will offer an anti-malware service to their customers as a paid subscription service, in competition with other vendors who have offered such services for years. That’s right. Microsoft will charge you still more money to make their software work more like it was supposed to work in the first place, and in the process, extend their monopoly.(0) Trackbacks
Ex-Attorneys General: Cut Convict’s Term
Four former US Attorneys General, a former FBI Director, and former judges and prosecutors, many Republicans, have filed briefs protesting the mandatory 55-year sentence of a 25-year-old Utah man for selling marijuana. This is a longer sentence than the one given the murderous Panamanian dictator, Manuel Noriega!
Read the news article:Trackbacks
I don’t know about your town, but New York is being overrun by cults. And thanks to the first amendment, there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.
I don’t know about your town, but New York is being overrun by cults. And thanks to the first amendment, there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.
The last straw for me was a big ad for a Kabbalah Center in Time Out New York , last week. It’s bad enough that big celebrities have embraced this mystical form of Judaism, including ex-Catholic Madonna. But now they’re trying to sucker in regular people? To shame Time Out for running that ad. Do you really need the cash so badly?
Let me explain my personal relation to cults. Back when I was in high school—Catholic high school—my best friend’s parents got mixed up in Scientology. Both were very intellectual people, both had very high paying jobs at a Defense Contractor—no we didn’t know how evil defense contractors were back then. My friend had a sister and she got dragged into Scientology too. He resisted, and believe me, it messed him up real bad for a while. I haven’t spoken to him in years, but let’s put it this way- he already had two wives in his twenties. Personally, I think he was desperate to recreate the family unit he had lost.
So what about this Scientology? It is a criminal syndicate one step below North Korea on the evil scale. They harass their opponents, dig up incriminating “evidence” on government officials and in general bilk their clients out of tons of money. They got their tax free church status by blackmailing judges and IRS officials. Then they latched on to lost celebs like Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley and John Travolta. To what end? To help people achieve something called “clear”- the state we existed in before all the bad influences of earthly life. One of the features of this state is the ability to regenerate limbs, broken teeth, etc. LOL folks. Our ancestors, you see, are space aliens and we need to throw off the earthly stresses through a battery of tests, exercises and thought control- all while we pay them thousands of dollars. What else would you expect from a B-level sci-fi writer?
Years later, I moved across from the Chinese Consulate in New York . After a few weeks, I noticed some strange music on Saturday afternoons. Turns out, weekly protests by Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) were held in front of my building. Goody gum drops for me. Within three years, the Falun faithful were everywhere (as are Scientologists who have set up “stress testing” centers in both Times Square and Grand Central Station to lure in tourists and the weak minded). The Fal-loonies fanned out across the city wherever tourists trafficked including across from Ground Zero. Talk about bad taste.
What is Falun Gong anyway? It seems to be a spiritual “movement” with principles based in Buddhism and Taoism. Not much is known about them, but the Chinese government, (not a personal favorite of mine) has been cracking down on them very harshly. So they decided the best way to get international attention was to concentrate on New York . And piss off the residents in the process by posting gruesome photos and clogging up city sidewalks. They look like a cult from the outside, but depending on what they’re up to, they also look like a yoga class.
Are they a threat to the Chinese government? You tell me how supposed peacenik Buddhist knockoffs can overthrow the mighty reds in China . But the Chinese are worried. Maybe it’s because they exclusivity in the mind control department. Regardless, the crackdown is brutal and relentless.
I’m glossing over the fact that the Christian hordes are continually knocking at the door, led by the Evangelical “Left Behind” crowd, various whack-job congressmen and odious sleazebag extraordinaire Pat Robertson. The Christian right also has a new champion in the newly installed pope, who seems to long for the comfort of the Nineteenth Century. Many American Catholics are apprehensive about his influence while several other religions seem ready to merge back with the Catholic church.
What ever happened to the day when religious people could be relied on to be compassionate and level-headed? What happened to the truth behind the teachings of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and a raft of prophets in the Old Testament? Yes, humans have worshipped everything under the sun, and the sun too. Space aliens seems like the logical next step. But is it too much to ask for some peace, before these cults lead us further down the road to destruction?(0) Trackbacks
There’s nothing more insulting or inane than local news. Case in point, those ubiquitous shots of morons on line at the 24 hour post office on April 15.
There’s nothing more insulting or inane than local news. Case in point, those ubiquitous shots of morons on line at the 24 hour post office on April 15.
Granted some people are just screw ups. But most people are probably there for the free coffee or playboy bunnies. Or to get on TV. And TV is there every year. I walked past the main post office here in NYC and there were satellite trucks from all our local TV stations. Really, does anyone care? Is it news if it happens predictably each year on the same day? News is supposed to be, well, new.
It’s like a certain place here in New York that I hate so I won’t mention it by name- but it’s a shack in the middle of a nice park that sells hot dogs and stuff. Now open for the season (third year), there have been notices in every newspaper and fawning articles about how allegedly great this place. So moronic yuppies line up 50 deep at noon to buy a hot dog for $3.50. The guy with the cart can go screw himself ‘cause the yuppies can go to the fancy shack and no longer suffer another dirty dog. But meanwhile, the fawning media keeps printing the same puff pieces on it year after year.
We all know that local news thrives on scandal and mayhem. The ideal story involves both plus a tragic death, say a small child or someone’s grandma. If it goes wrong, you can bet it’ll be on the local news.
Friday, I saw a local reporter latching on to poor commuters trying to get out of New York on Amtrak’s Acela service (canceled until at least Wednesday I hear). Latching on is kind- she literally stalked about with a microphone. If you were supposed to be on an Acela train, she had the camera on before you could even ask not to be interviewed. She was typical of the gung ho reporters on local NYC television. Exquisitely made up, a camera-friendly Asian woman, slim in a nice suit. And a shark. I could feel the ice in her veins from across the waiting room.
Of course, we get an added bonus in a few weeks. Sweeps time! That’s when everyone juices their shows to get ratings because it’s May sweeps, one of 4 times a year when advertising rates are set. (That’s why all your favorite shows end their season in May after running intermittent new episodes since the last sweeps period in February.) So you’ll see even more scandals and tie-ins to the shows that just ran. Real life CSIs! True Revelations! Plus the winner of American Idol. Gotta get those ratings up for the local news anyway they can.
Honestly, I hate the local news, as if you couldn’t tell by now. Don’t watch it. They have channels for sports and weather, the only things really important. Your life will be better off without the death and destruction. Trust me.(0) Trackbacks