Monday, December 13, 2004

Supporting Our Troops

Troops asking for armor are told to make do with spin. I guess D. Rumsfeld rides in an armored limousine because he's not as resourceful as our troops. Don't really understand why. Even an armored limousine can be blown up.

We have the finest military in the world for several reasons. We try to provide our troops with the best equipment and the best training. The military tries to develop the best leaders and is successful the vast majority of the time. We develop effective, complex logistics programs to make sure our troops are supplied with what they need, when they need it -- everything from food, weapons, and ammunition to tanks, trucks, and Humvees.

One of the important reasons that our military is the finest in the world is the resourcefulness of our troops. When confronted with problems, our troops find solutions. When confronted with obstacles, our troops come up with ways to work around the obstacles. Our troops don't sit on their hands and whine about problems, they find innovative and creative ways to do the best they can with what they have, while waiting for the leadership to come up with a permanent solution.

So, why are our troops scouring the landfills looking for scrap metal to armor their Humvees? Because they are smart, innovative, and creative. They know that it takes time for the manufactured armor to be delivered and installed. They recognize that they need to find a temporary solution to protect themselves. They have found their temporary solution in the landfills. The solution isn't perfect, but it beats doing nothing but complaining.

Excerpted from:

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Bush's Social Security Reform

Social Security's "running out of money". How do we "save" it?

Why we allow people to divert their money somewhere else!

Social Security was designed to lower risk by providing everyone with a basic retirement. As much as one ingnores or even appreciates risk as a 20 year-old, most are not entertained to wake up on their 62nd birthday to find out someone else just "appropriated" his or her lifetime nestegg.   (Any Enron retirees in the audience?)

Keep in mind that the stock market crash in 1937 and its resulting disasterous impact on American's "savings" was one of the arguments for Social Security.

So how to save Social Security? Putting the money into more risky investments only moves us closer to the original problem.

As much as the Far Right's proposed solution degrades the position of the general populace, moving people into more "lucrative" investments (curiously?) solves two pressing Far Right goals:

1) It will help lessen taxes on the well-off.

In order to pass, it also must spun to appear as a benefit to those far from retirement as well as having no effect on those close to retirement.

A possible upside to the plan is that it will make it more difficult for Congress to dip into our retirement money. Congress is infamous for replacing cash with IOUs.

The likely downside is the solution to the Far Right's second problem:

2) How to get Wall Street's grubby hands into Social Security. Wall Street has been lusting after a piece of Social Security's huge asset pools for years.

I predict a tough fight for what will be in the end very little progress. Hmm... sorta sounds like my prediction for Iraq.

As an experiment, I'll be keeping track of Bush's SS Reform "progress" as reported in the press. I'm interested in tracking his "flip flopping".

Starting out from Rueters we have the first stake in the sand:
UPDATE 1-Bush says no payroll tax hike for Social Security
Thu Dec 9, 2004 11:09 AM ET
(Adds details)

WASHINGTON, Dec 9 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Thursday ruled out raising payroll taxes to help pay for Social Security reform, a transition experts have estimated will cost $1 trillion to $2 trillion.
"We will not raise payroll taxes to solve this problem," said Bush, rejecting a solution advocated by some experts.
Bush wants to add personal retirement accounts to Social Security to let younger workers have the option of investing of some their own money to pay for retirement.
Experts believe the transition cost $1 trillion to $2 trillion over 10 years.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina had recommended a payroll tax increase on upper-bracket workers to help finance the transition.
Bush made the comment during an Oval Office meeting with Social Security experts.
The White House said this week the transition costs might be borrowed, but Bush said he would not prejudge any solution and would work with members of Congress.
"I think what's really important in the discussions is to understand the size of the problem, and that is we are faced with a present value of unfunded liabilities of about $11 trillion," he said.

Activist Judges

After Bush's Tort Reform legislation goes into effect we'll see fewer of these rediculous payout amounts

From the 10.12.04 New Zealand Herald:

A Chicago court has ordered three United States Islamic organisations and a man accused of bankrolling the Palestinian group Hamas to pay US$156 million ($224 million) in damages over the death of a US-born student, David Boim, gunned down in the West Bank in 1996.

Lawyers for the student's parents, who brought the suit, had said in advance that no money might ever be collected, but the real point of the case was to set a precedent for going after "the domestic enablers of terrorism".

The case was brought under a 1992 US law that permits victims of terrorism to seek civil damages against groups deemed responsible for such acts.

Monday, December 06, 2004

America's "War" on Drugs

Are we winning?

Every TV show these days has 5 minutes of story punctuated by 6 minutes of ads by Big Pharma.

Hungry? Eat too much? Eat this pill!

Worried? Anxious? Worried that you may be too anxious? Take a pill!

Shy? Want to be popular? Swallow this magic potion.

Even Viagra and every one of its competitors is not even bothering to be circumspect in their ads. Take this and your wife/girlfriend/secretary will get a huge grin on her face and totally forget that Viagra still does nothing for her sex drive that your pot belly and continuous snoring hasn't already killed. If Viagra isn't a "recreational" drug, what is?

So my question is this: Can we ever be sucessful in our "war against drugs" when our very society is looking to solve their every problem with a magic pill?

Friday, November 12, 2004

We May All Be Getting Screwed

We all know that there's a huge "cultural" rift in the US following the election.

"America is more divided than ever!" the news announces.

I'm thinking that that same media may be part of the problem.

Talking (ok, e-mailing usally) with most of you, I find that there are a lot of strongly-held opinions these days. Even having spent the first half of my life in the South, I sometimes find myself at odds with the very people I grew up with. Differences in opinion are one thing, being angry with one's own friends is another.

So why are "Red States" so Red when other states are so "Blue"? Why is "Government Evil/Business Good" for some while "Big Business is Satan/Governent is Salvation" for others? Living in a Blue State, I'm all of a sudden a "Cultural Elite"? Why am I told that everyone in a "Red State" is a mouth-breather? I don't feel any smarter than before the election, much like I'm sure most RedStaters don't feel dumber. Point is, I'm beginning to suspect... you guessed it...

It's Someone Else's Fault.

Everyone can always agree that any problem is caused by someone else, right? So why not blame the media?

I don't want to jump into the quagmire of what's causing the news to be biased. Heck, the only thing we can all agree on is that the news went bad after Walter Cronkite left.

"News as 'info-tainment'", "News for profit", "Yellow
journalism", "Liberal bias", "Corporate corruption". We can argue that forever. The truth is probably closer to all of the above plus more. In short, the problem with our news is: Humans.

We can take solace in knowing that just about any alternative would probably only be worse. ( "WMTX! Radio Matrix! Brought to you by, 'The Machines!")

Sorry, I digress.

For example:

I'm an NPR listener (Mainly because I got tired of hearing constant
advertisements for anal cream, casinos and every other variant on snake oil. With NPR all my advertisements are confined to the top of the hour ;-) and I read Google news.

Having been laid off for almost 2 years, I've consumed a *lot* of NPR/Google news. Was I missing something? This election prompted me to find out. I spun over to the AM dial and begun listening to more conservative (for lack of a more PC way to say "opposite-of-liberal") broadcasts.

One thing that caught my attention this morning was an announcer's outrage at the success of the new console game "Grand Theft Auto: San Adreas". Basically, he was asking if we were trying to teach our kids to be criminals.

That struck me as quite humorous, as GTA:SA hadn't shown up on my NPR/Google newsfeeds, but yesterady another game had: 'Halo 2'. "It sold over $100M its first day!"

One game features a military hero slaughtering alien slime. The other features (illegal alien?) slime slaughtering helpless civilians. Exercise for the reader: Can anyone figure out how each might be spun to outrage a demographic?

The contrast in reporting struck me as odd. Why would different news feeds be focusing on different video games, each released within days of the other, while not even mentioning the other? I'm thinking its demographics. You broadcast to "conservatives"? Spin the hell out of GTA:SA. Your "consumers" a bunch of "whiney liberals"? Halo 2's automatic weapons may be just the ticket.

So the point of this whole diatribe is this: Try listening to "the other side's" news every once in a while. Not in an attempt to "convert" so much as to give yourself an insight into the bias you may receiving every day from your _own_ news sources. ( Heck, I didn't even know that "GTA:SA" had been released! What are those NPR bastards trying to hide from me?!?)

Listening to AM talk radio won't make me want to join the Moral Majority, but it may give me some insight into information that is totally disregarded by my normal news outlets.

Seeing both sides of the coin helps to remind me that it is *just* a coin.
(Alright, alright. So Sage of Perls of Wisdom I ain't. Somebody's *got* to be able to come up with a better chestnut than I did here! Help me out!)


Keep in mind that even if you can't pick up "the other side's dastardly radio broadcasts" in your area, most are now available on that "great equalizer" the world-wide web. ( Why do I find it curious that although we're the most "interconnected" we've ever been, we're also the most divided we've ever been? Could the Civil War have been a result of radio? Oh, never mind.)

If you've got posters of George Bush on your wall, try listening to NPR (I use '') or maybe even Google news.

If you have posters of George Bush on your wall, only they've got bulls-eyes or cross-hairs painted on them, try listening to something more conservative, like Fox News ('') or KGO AM

Trust me, it's an interesting thing. We can easily see how the "other side" spins things. Once we learn how it works, we can then more easily see how "our side" spins things for *our* consumption.

Long story short: We need to avoid the path we're headed into. Fighting with each other (Rowandan machete, anyone?) is only detracting us from the real problem. I'm not yet sure what that problem is, but I'm guessing that it's not my friends, family and neighbors.

Lemme know what you find.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

American Taliban

I find it ironic that even within the span of the presidential administration that overthrew the Taliban, there are many who suggest that the answer to this nation's problems is more religion.

Would these same people support "In Shah Allah" in American presidential addresses with the same fervor they lend to government funding of faith-based initiatives?

What part of "separation of church and state" is so easily forgotten? Are the lessons learned from the Taliban's rule of Afghanistan already a lost memory?

Monday, October 18, 2004

Privatizing Social Security

Mr. Bush proclaims the answer to all of Social Security's problems will be solved by privitization. (Funny, I always thought the answer to Social Security's problems would have been to stop Congress from spending the money and filling the fund with IOUs)

What Mr. Bush neglects to mention is that circa 2000 -- when he was elected -- a majority of American's *did* have their retirment money invested in the market.

These multitudes by now have a very keen insight into the viability of that plan. Millions of cold-footed investors staying on the sidelines for the last 4 years lend support to this hypothesis. So do the millions now planning on working well past the retirement age they had so eagerly looked forward to only 48 months ago.

So... is privatizing Social Security the answer?

You mean again?

Recovering Conservative

"True" Conservatives (also known as Religious Conservatives) are well known for their adamant rejection of all forms of abortion.

Curiously, Conservatives are also well known for their adamant refusal to offer time or funds to feed, clothe, educate or board unwanted children. They also have no qualms with executing anyone declared guilty.

One friend explains that the unborn should be protected (as the borne apparently shouldn't) because they are untouched by sin.

Is it something in the air that makes an infant sinful? Curiously Arch Conservatives don't want to pay for pre-natal care of unwanted children either, so maybe the 'air' answer isn't right either.

A Tale of Two Liars

Two liars come to you asking for a job.

Liar #1 has worked for you the past 4 years and has done a poor job. He's not even started most of his projects and the one he did start is dreadfully off track. Arguably your company is worse off now that before you hired him. Liar #1 promises to do all he promised 4 years ago and more if you re-hire him.

Liar #2 regales you with different, but no less grandios lies as Liar #1.

Who do you hire?

If you were Liar #1, who do you think *your boss* would hire?