Spring 2009: The News, my Rants, and Sundry Reading

2009.06.20

In a peculiarly relieving way, the city of Austin reportedly approves a particular composting toilet.

That is a good story to upon which to end seasonally based news rants.


ProPublica has a very curious article out that relates to the healthcare debate, but is specifically about insurance companies’ denials of medical care payments to civilians injured in war zones. Here’s a paragraph I find particularly illuminating:

A retired U.S. Army Reserve general who served in Iraq, Fay called the war-zone insurance program “a flawed statutory and regulatory scheme.” He noted that the law requires payments for injuries within 14 days — a timetable he said required carriers to issue denials to protect their legal rights.

I find the quote revealing because shows how some war-zone insurance companies presume guilt instead of innocence with regards to those humans submitting claims.


2009.05.28

Energy Secretary Steven Chu has reportedly said that flat roofs and roads should be painted either white or with paints designed to reflect light, that this would help to cool the earth some.

This seems like one of those simplistic ideas that might help. If it’s coming from a physicist, it’s a bit harder to argue with than if it was coming from, say, Joe Doe who noted when he was a kid that black asphalt roads burned the soles of his feet when he walked on them barefoot at noon on a hot summer day, followed by a reflexive dance quickly back to the sidewalk, which though warm, was at least bearable.


Amid a bevy of buzz today about how much the uninsured cost the insured, surely “proof” that accounting is creatively different for big corporations versus the accounting demanded of the typical citizen, I was relieved to see that an organization called Healthcare Now! is planning rallies on May 30 to push for single-payer universal healthcare, H.R. 676.


On a similar theme, it appears that details of Corporate’s pledge to Obama to reign in healthcare costs are leaking out, emphasis added:

In addition to providing incentives and information to beneficiaries to encourage the use of high quality, cost-efficient doctors, the recommendations include measures to reduce avoidable and inappropriate care.

For example, the report recommends using nurse practitioners to manage illnesses and prevent hospitalizations as well as linking some payments to evidence-based therapies.

Translation: the plan is for corporate to limit what doctors you can see, and when you can see them, by using “incentives”, which basically seems to mean it will cost you more to get the care you want, all while they tout it as a plan to “save money”!

It appears the spin being placed by corporate that single-payer universal healthcare will prevent you from seeing a doctor when you need one, or having long waits for operative care, is in fact what corporate plans to do! They just said so in the above item as I read it.


Here’s a reasonably good and very short history of corporations.

Some things to think about higher education.


2009.05.26

Two big Judicial Branch news items today, the California Supreme Court ruled Proposition 8 as valid (PDF), and Obama has nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Commondreams.org talks to Americans about Canadian healthcare, to dispel scare tactics being used in the U.S. media regarding nationalized healthcare. Sylvan Meyrons reportedly “lived and worked in the United States until a back injury forced him to go back to France after frustrated struggles with American insurance companies.” Isn’t that just like particular entities, to accuse “them” “over there” of what they are doing here. It seems the scare tactics are what, I understand, psychologists call projections.


I’m going to be scaling back my posting frequency, as I have other projects to work on. I had hoped to make it through the entire spring season, but it’s taking too much time away from other interests.


2009.05.25

Gore and Ban Ki-moon are urging global corporations to cut greenhouse emissions.

In a sense, reading about this story over the years is somewhat like watching a play. Reading through that particular story, and some similar ones, also see this, seems to show a great deal of hypocrisy. Rather than write on that myself, it seems others have already. Reportedly Kenneth Haar, with Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) has said:

The access available to Shell, Duke Energy and other companies to meet climate change negotiators from the United Nations, China and elsewhere in Copenhagen was condemned last night by the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) campaign group.

“Corporate lobbyists have been trying to influence the UN climate talks from the start. But now they are being invited to set the agenda before the negotiators have even sat down. If their demands are listened to, we might as well give up the fight against climate change now.”

Why did Haar’s organization decide on a name acronym for their group that are the same letters as Corporate Executive Officer?

I was saddened some days ago when U.S. Energy Secretary Chu reduced funding for Hydrogen research, though I do understand why he did so. Hydrogen as a power storage medium for transportation has been held as a carrot in front of our collective noses for more than 50-75 years now, and as always, it seems the promise of clean, solar-derived energy stored and used as Hydrogen, leaving only water as emissions byproduct, is “right around the corner”.

Of course, the danger is that it really is right around the corner, and as such is reminiscent of The Boy Who Cried Wolf falsely too many times, so that when it really did happen, nobody believed him.

My own reading of the above items is that our leaders are essentially preparing us for massive inflation, and given the shrinking of the middle class, very few will be able to afford to use or own a vehicle.

Perhaps if carbon-spewing airplanes and helicopters were simultaneously no longer allowed to fly anywhere in the world, the tradeoff would be a fair one.


Robert Reich, writing about funding healthcare, reminds us:

It’s also an upside-down system. The biggest share of the $246 billion goes to upper-income people. The lower your pay, the less coverage you’re likely to have. Workers in lowest paying jobs don’t generally get any health insurance from their employers. Few people collecting $12 an hour at fast-food restaurants or big-box retailers see any part of the $246 billion. The higher your pay, the more health coverage you receive, and the bigger chunk of the $246 billion you get. Top executives and their families get gold-plated plans guaranteeing top-notch medical attention for just about every risk imaginable, along with extra coverage in retirement.

It appears that single-payer universal like H.R. 676 is still off the table.


2009.05.23

Citizen-times.com has a well written opinion out on marijuana, among other points, it praises Schwarzenegger for calling for an open debate. One point it made that seems correct is how alcohol prohibition was stopped as much if not mostly by the Depression (the one that started in 1929), and that we’re currently experiencing a similar set of problems relating to marijuana prohibition.


2009.05.22

Yesterday Citizens for Tax Justice released a report that offers some “straightforward” ways to pay for healthcare reform. From their report, “They involve eliminating or reducing several subsidies and preferences provided in the federal tax code to the wealthiest and most powerful among us.” Here’s a particularly strong quote from the report itself (PDF):

Proponents of the preferential rates for investment income enacted under President Bush argue that they encourage investment in businesses, which leads to more jobs and a better life for everyone. But given the evidence of how the economy has performed in the years since these tax cuts have been in effect, this view seems delusional.

BBC reports Steven Chu, Energy Secretary, envisions a world powered by wind and solar power!

On solar he explained: “The challenge is to make solar energy cost-effective. The amount of energy hitting the Earth – if you looked at it, if you could convert (with photovoltaic cells) 20% of the Sun’s energy into electricity you would need 5% of the world’s deserts. This is not much land. So the opportunity is enormous.

Chu reportedly says the problem is transporting the generated electricity long distances, as well as storing it, presumably for use during nighttime when photovoltaics don’t generate power.

It’s too bad the last 30 years have seen a decrease in the middle class’s purchasing power. If most families had enough disposable income, solar cells could be purchased and put on every roof.

Steven Chu reportedly recently discontinued, or vastly reduced, funding for hydrogen research, one focus of fuel-cell powered vehicles. This has been a controversial decision. Shortly afterward, Stanford scientists reported a storage discovery that would triple the amount of vehicular hydrogen storage versus Department of Energy guidelines for the year 2015.

He recently signed an agreement with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to weatherize low-income homes:

The Recovery Act provides $16 billion to the Department of Energy and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes. The partnership announced today between HUD and DOE will coordinate funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program, which received $5 billion under the Recovery Act. Other energy efficiency efforts include $4.5 billion in HUD funding to renovate and upgrade public and Native American housing, as well as $250 million to retrofit privately owned federally assisted housing. In addition to the weatherization funds, DOE received $3.2 billion for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants for cities, counties, states and Indian Tribes, $3.1 billion for the State Energy Program, and other programs.

2009.05.21

Via Organicconsumers.org newsletter, there’s been a new science study that has found fructose-sweetened beverages increases belly fat (visceral adipose tissue) versus glucose-sweetened beverages:

Studies in animals have documented that, compared with glucose, dietary fructose induces dyslipidemia and insulin resistance. To assess the relative effects of these dietary sugars during sustained consumption in humans, overweight and obese subjects consumed glucose- or fructose-sweetened beverages providing 25% of energy requirements for 10 weeks. Although both groups exhibited similar weight gain during the intervention, visceral adipose volume was significantly increased only in subjects consuming fructose. Fasting plasma triglyceride concentrations increased by approximately 10% during 10 weeks of glucose consumption but not after fructose consumption. In contrast, hepatic de novo lipogenesis (DNL) and the 23-hour postprandial triglyceride AUC were increased specifically during fructose consumption. Similarly, markers of altered lipid metabolism and lipoprotein remodeling, including fasting apoB, LDL, small dense LDL, oxidized LDL, and postprandial concentrations of remnant-like particle-triglyceride and -cholesterol significantly increased during fructose but not glucose consumption. In addition, fasting plasma glucose and insulin levels increased and insulin sensitivity decreased in subjects consuming fructose but not in those consuming glucose. These data suggest that dietary fructose specifically increases DNL, promotes dyslipidemia, decreases insulin sensitivity, and increases visceral adiposity in overweight/obese adults. PMID: 19381015 [PubMed – in process] PMCID: PMC2673878

So, what is insulin sensitivity? Wikipedia says, emphasis added:

Insulin resistance (IR) is the condition in which normal amounts of insulin are inadequate to produce a normal insulin response from fat, muscle and liver cells. Insulin resistance in fat cells reduces the effects of insulin and results in elevated hydrolysis of stored triglycerides in the absence of measures which either increase insulin sensitivity or which provide additional insulin. Increased mobilization of stored lipids in these cells elevates free fatty acids in the blood plasma. Insulin resistance in muscle cells reduces glucose uptake (and so local storage of glucose as glycogen), whereas insulin resistance in liver cells results in impaired glycogen synthesis and a failure to suppress glucose production. Elevated blood fatty acid levels (associated with insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus Type 2), reduced muscle glucose uptake, and increased liver glucose production all contribute to elevated blood glucose levels. High plasma levels of insulin and glucose due to insulin resistance are believed to be the origin of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, including its complications.

High-fructose corn-syrup (HFCS) is very hard to eliminate from the diet if you eat processed foods, but if you read ingredient labels, it is possible to reduce it, though you’ll probably find, like I have, that your choice of processed foods is vastly reduced and you’ll have to do a lot more cooking from scratch or be willing to spend more time and money searching for alternatives.

What is most interesting in the HFCS phenomenon was how it started entering our food supply in the 1970s and ended up in so many of our processed foods. Over time, did this increase the flow of money into the health sector?


Via OpEdNews, The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has called for a ban on Genetically Modified foods, specifically:

* A moratorium on GM food, implementation of immediate long term safety testing and labeling of GM food.
* Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community and the public to avoid GM foods.
* Physicians to consider the role of GM foods in their patients’ disease processes.
* More independent long term scientific studies to begin gathering data to investigate the role of GM foods on human health.

AAEM’s White Paper.

Labeling of GM foods has been suggested by advocates for as many years as I can remember being online, but it never seems adopted by our corporate leaders, who also don’t seem to want us to have single-payer healthcare.

Perhaps we’re all part of a huge-in-scope corporate-medical experiment.


The ACLU has written a demand letter to the Ramona Unified School District, over the schools censoring of a student’s presentation on Harvey Milk. A copy of the student’s presentation can be downloaded here. The school has 5 days to respond before ACLU considers filing a lawsuit.

I read the student’s presentation, and clearly it is not sexual education material, it is simply a short biography of a politician’s life and death. Therefore, it would seem accurately classified as historical.

We just had an election in which money for schools was at stake, the claim was and is that California public schools are financially hurting. Then we read about actions like this, that besides any ill will directed toward this particular student and her presentation, also wasted taxpayer money for the staff time calling parents to reschedule, etc. What a waste.


While on the subject of saving money, the ACLU claims that California can save $1 Billion in 5 years by eliminating the death penalty. I don’t know about their financial math, but whether it’s true or not, the death penalty does seem rather barbaric.


2009.05.20

The State of California’s election yesterday didn’t go quite as some hoped. Those are pretty amazing figures, almost 2:1 against, except for limiting legislators salaries in deficit years, which was almost 3:1 in favor.


This morning it appears that Gov. Schwarzenegger and AG Brown have joined up to challenge a couple of court rulings against violent video games sales to children by filing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.


EFF comments on the DMCA through the newly proposed Right-to-repair Law, H.R.2057.

Open-source design and manufacturing could be another answer to all the intellectual property “locks” (that EFF mentions).


2009.05.19 The White House has announced an improvement in vehicle MPG ratings and CO2 emissions targets that are accelerated versus CAFE standards. The new standards will require a fleet average of 35.5 MPG by 2016.

From the announcement:

“In the past, an agreement such as this would have been considered impossible,” said President Obama. “That is why this announcement is so important, for it represents not only a change in policy in Washington, but the harbinger of a change in the way business is done in Washington. As a result of this agreement, we will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years. And at a time of historic crisis in our auto industry, this rule provides the clear certainty that will allow these companies to plan for a future in which they are building the cars of the 21st century.”

This is good news that was accompanied by much ceremony at the Rose Garden.

But is better fuel economy and reduced emissions what we need at this time of climate change or as some have said, “emergency“?

A car company in Oceanside, California, has made a vehicle that far exceeds the White House’s MPG targets, it’s called the Aptera. They’re not the only one with such eye popping efficiency. A proposed vehicle design powered by a microturbine is expected to get over 200MPG, and it will run on several different fuel types, something that could be useful in some situations, such as when one fuel type gets too expensive or unavailable.

Another technology which promises even greater cleanness are so-called zero-emission electric vehicles. Battery technology keeps improving. In these cases, they’re sometimes called “zero emission”, but that’s something of a misnomer as emissions are simply shifted to the point of electric production. If technology such as solar power generation becomes predominant, then electric vehicles seem to offer the environment the cleanest option. But even in these cases, there still would seem to be issues with material production emissions and toxicity impacts.


In less of a feel-good story, the Government Accountability Office released it’s report about Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers, here’s some of the summary, emphasis added,

GAO recently testified before the Committee regarding allegations of death and abuse at residential programs for troubled teens. Recent reports indicate that vulnerable children are being abused in other settings. For example, one report on the use of restraints and seclusions in schools documented cases where students were pinned to the floor for hours at a time, handcuffed, locked in closets, and subjected to other acts of violence. In some of these cases, this type of abuse resulted in death. Given these reports, the Committee asked GAO to (1) provide an overview of seclusions and restraint laws applicable to children in public and private schools, (2) verify whether allegations of student death and abuse from the use of these methods are widespread, and (3) examine the facts and circumstances surrounding cases where a student died or suffered abuse as a result of being secluded or restrained. GAO reviewed federal and state laws and abuse allegations from advocacy groups, parents, and the media from the past two decades. GAO did not evaluate whether using restraints and seclusions can be beneficial. GAO examined documents related to closed cases, including police and autopsy reports and school policies. GAO also interviewed parents, attorneys, and school officials and conducted searches to determine the current employment status of staff involved in the cases. GAO found no federal laws restricting the use of seclusion and restraints in public and private schools and widely divergent laws at the state level. Although GAO could not determine whether allegations were widespread, GAO did find hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death related to the use of these methods on school children during the past two decades. Examples of these cases include a 7 year old purportedly dying after being held face down for hours by school staff, 5 year olds allegedly being tied to chairs with bungee cords and duct tape by their teacher and suffering broken arms and bloody noses, and a 13 year old reportedly hanging himself in a seclusion room after prolonged confinement. Although GAO continues to receive new allegations from parents and advocacy groups, GAO could not find a single Web site, federal agency, or other entity that collects information on the use of these methods or the extent of their alleged abuse. GAO also examined the details of 10 restraint and seclusion cases in which there was a criminal conviction, a finding of civil or administrative liability, or a large financial settlement. The cases share the following common themes: they involved children with disabilities who were restrained and secluded, often in cases where they were not physically aggressive and their parents did not give consent; restraints that block air to the lungs can be deadly; teachers and staff in the cases were often not trained on the use of seclusions and restraints; and teachers and staff from at least 5 of the 10 cases continue to be employed as educators.

This is so sad, but it’s good that the information is being released, and I’d bet it’s the visible “tip of the iceberg”. While these cases seem the most serious, restricted as they were to cases of “seclusion” and “restraint”, how many “less serious” abuse forms have there been? For some reason my memory flashed on a commercial that used to run on, I believe, television several decades ago, the verbal frame was “words hit harder than fists” or something like that.

One of the reasons often cited for the existence of compulsory education was that it was a government response to child labor abuses, underpayment for such labor, and dangerous factory conditions. Yet, children undoubtedly labor in schools, they do not get paid for it, and some apparently are subjected to death. I’m not convinced there’s been any substantial positive change, it’s just that, as the song says, the boss has changed, and to which we can add, the pay’s gone down.


2009.05.18

Scotusblog.com reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear two California counties’ challenges to the state’s medical marijuana laws.

** A plea by two California counties for the right to challenge state power to decriminalize the use and cultivation of marijuana for medical use, on the theory that this conflicts with federal narcotics law. Their case marked a failed attempt to get the Court to strike down the laws of 13 states that allow medical use of marijuana. (San Diego County v. San Diego NORML (08-887) and San Bernardino County v. California (08-897).

Maybe now San Diego County will decide to start issuing medical marijuana certificates to lawfully prescribed patients, and perhaps they will stop harassing caregivers.

The ACLU has written on this, as well has MPP who says “Game Over”.


Via the FreePress e-newsletter, Multichannel News reports that an attoney has written to the FCC describing a banking danger to the First Amendment:


“We now have a potential seismic restructuring of broadcast ownership he warns, “with bankers acquiring significant interest in numerous broadcast stations. The concurrent de facto nationalization of these lenders may, in turn, lead to significant de facto government onwership of the commercial broadcast media,” he said.

I think this guy is onto something important, but is he describing something that is soon to be, already exists, or that has existed for some time and that merely formalizing bank ownership will exacerbate. Once again the fact of money being in supreme control is inherent in the observation and FCC request.

It seems to me the danger to the First Amendment was in a privately-owned and debt-based banking system. That would put the real danger to the FA timeline-wise back in 1913 or thereabouts.


Rawstory reported yesterday that Ron Paul is calling for more transparency from the Federal Reserve, as well as an audit of them. His bill H.R. 1207 currently has 165 cosponsors and is in committee.

Perhaps more Democrats will jump on that bandwagon.


In a somewhat bizarre sounding story, the developer of Tamiflu has apparently said that the current swine flu may not be of natural origin. Via OpEdNews.


It seems some “disabled” school kids have been physically restrained [tortured?] in schools, even when they haven’t been “physically aggressive or dangerous“, and this treatment called “prone restraint” has apparently resulted in deaths.


Robert Reich writes a good critique on our failure to fairly consider single-payer universal health insurance.

But now the Medicare-like option is being taken off the table. Insurance and drug companies have thrown their weight around the Senate. And, sadly, the White House — eager to get a bill enacted in 2009 rather than risk it during the mid-term election year of 2010 — is signaling it’s open to other approaches. What other approaches? One would create a public insurance plan run by multiple regional third-party administrators. In other words, the putative “public plan” would be broken into little pieces, none of which could exert much bargaining leverage on Big Pharma and Big Insurance. These pieces would also be so decentralized that the drug companies and private insurers could easily bully (or bribe) regional third-party administrators.

Perhaps the corporatists are “prone restraining” single-payer healthcare, hoping to give it a quick death.


2009.05.17

I just felt a rather strong earthquake, it seemed to move east-west. This rock we’re sitting on doesn’t shake very often. USGS is reporting:

5.0 2009/05/17 20:39:36 33.940N 118.338W 13.5 2 km ( 1 mi) E of Lennox, CA

That’s Richter 5. Shake intensity zone. According to that last link, we’re in a zone that shouldn’t have felt anything.

[update] It appears USGS has reduced the magnitude to 4.7 from the earlier 5.0.

[update May 18] Most news reports have said LA has escaped injuries or significant damage, but some reports say there was some minor damage.


2009.05.16

[sundry cooking] I wanted to make some Orange Chicken, so thought to check online after the first cookbook on my shelves that I checked didn’t have any similarly named recipe. After spending only a short time reading and studying a few of them, the one that appealed the most to me was named Asian Orange Chicken, but another site has some very nice photos attached with the same recipe, they call it simply, Orange Chicken Recipe. It appears that several hundred different sites have this same basic recipe.

Most often I’m not entirely happy with any recipe that I’ve tried without wanting to later make some changes, but this particular recipe is better tasting than most versions of it that I’ve had in restaurants over the years. Yum! I wouldn’t change anything.

Or would I?

For some reason I read this OpEd after making the Orange Chicken, it’s subtitled an “Interview with Neurosurgeon Dr. Russell Blaylock on devastating health effects of MSG, aspartame and Excitotoxins“. The original seems to be here.

What about the Soy Sauce? As I was adding it to the pan, a thought occurred to me, something along the lines of, “I don’t really know what is in this stuff.” Keep in mind this thought occurred before reading the Blaylock interview.

From Wikipedia:

Monosodium glutamate is one of several forms of glutamic acid found in foods, in large part because glutamic acid is pervasive in nature, being an amino acid. Glutamic acid and its salts can also be present in a wide variety of other additives, including hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts, and protein isolate, any one of which may appear as “spices” or “natural flavorings.” The food additives disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate are usually used along with monosodium glutamate-containing ingredients, and provide a likely indicator of the presence of monosodium glutamate in a product. For this reason, the FDA considers labels such as “No MSG” or “No Added MSG” to be misleading if the food contains ingredients that are sources of free glutamate, such as hydrolyzed protein.[12] In 1993, the FDA proposed adding the phrase “(contains glutamate)” to the common or usual names of certain protein hydrolysates that contain substantial amounts of glutamate.[12] In the 2004 version of his book, On Food and Cooking, food scientist Harold McGee states that “[after many studies], toxicologists have concluded that MSG is a harmless ingredient for most people, even in large amounts.”

The brand of soy sauce I used, classified as a Tamari type, says, “No MSG added”, but does that mean it has no free glutamates? This is actually a question I cannot answer, but wish I could.

From Soy Sauce, emphasis added:

Although there are many types of soy sauce, all are salty and “earthy”-tasting brownish liquids used to season food while cooking or at the table. Soy sauce has a distinct basic taste called umami by the Japanese (literally “delicious taste”). Umami was first identified as a basic taste in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda of the Tokyo Imperial University. The free glutamates which naturally occur in soy sauce are what give it this taste quality.

Perhaps it’s better to remove the soy sauce from the recipe, as it seems likely to have free glutamates.

[may 17] Apparently this topic is still on my mind, I guess I’m trying to discern where the truth lies. It seems that free glutamate sensitivity is something of an individual matter.

A document not to be missed in the MSG and Free Glutamate controversy is the FDA itself.

In 1993, FDA proposed adding the phrase “(contains glutamate)” to the common or usual names of certain protein hydrolysates that contain substantial amounts of glutamate. For example, if the proposal were adopted, hydrolyzed soy protein would have to be declared on food labels as “hydrolyzed soy protein (contains glutamate).” However, if FDA issues a new proposal, it would probably supersede this 1993 one. In 1994, FDA received a citizen’s petition requesting changes in labeling requirements for foods that contain MSG or related substances. The petition asks for mandatory listing of MSG as an ingredient on labels of manufactured and processed foods that contain manufactured free glutamic acid. It further asks that the amount of free glutamic acid or MSG in such products be stated on the label, along with a warning that MSG may be harmful to certain groups of people. FDA has not yet taken action on the petition.

Labeling is generally a good idea, it follows along the generalized ideas of transparency and disclosure. The FDA document lists a number of symptoms some folks may have.

Along the same generalized thought process of free glutamate symptoms:

It is interesting to note the joke that after eating MSG in foods at a Chinese restaurant “you are hungry an hour later”, may have some merit. The glutamate in MSG acts as an insulin trigger. This will definitely give you a hunger response about an hour and a half later. This fact has not been lost on American food manufacturers. They know the value of an addictive food ingredient. If they keep you hungry for more, they have succeeded.

Perhaps if you are not highly sensitive to it, but you are trying to lose weight, avoiding free glutamate is a good idea. However, since food labels do not have a product’s free glutamate listed, what foods should one avoid? That’s a very long list. So, what foods can one eat if you want to avoid free glutamates? Also, an extremely restrictive list. Even getting bread flour that doesn’t have malted barely added would seem quite difficult. While I would love to buy my flours at a flour mill (I’ve written briefly about this elsewhere on this blog), we have none around this area of Southern California, and the wholesale-retail schism rears its head again, millers even use a different grading scheme from that used by repackagers and retailers. All the flours that I’ve bought over the years have “malted barley” added as an ingredient.

Going full circle back to the Blaylock interview republished at OpEd news, there’s one logistic item in the debate that I find curious when juxtaposed against the marijuana debate: Blaylock claims that our bodies have glutamate receptors throughout the body, and seems to use this as an argument against free glutamates; while marijuana advocates use the 1980s-discovered cannibinoid receptors in our bodies as an argument for our bodies’ need for marijuana.

It’s no wonder the truth is difficult to discern.


2009.05.15

I noted an article about soil nitrogen, measuring it, and microbes. Then, I noted the site has an entire section devoted to organic agricultural practices. Are we in paradise yet? I’ll undoubtedly be spending a few days reading everything I can find there.

Last year I placed a 8″ deep ring of about 5-6′ diameter self-made compost around some fruit trees I’d planted 6 months to a year earlier. This ring was sunken in the sense that I removed existing soil, digging carefully to not disturb roots closer to the still-small tree trunks, and replaced it with pure compost, in order to keep the surface grade about the same. The trees’ feeder roots were growing along with the tree, and I wanted them to have a nice thick area of compost to spread into. The compost was what I’ll call young in the sense that it wasn’t fully black yet, though it had spent several months in a turned pile that had heated up several times, prior to using it for this ring.

This year, I was reworking the irrigation micro-bubblers and changing to micro-sprayers that expanded the ground-surface area the irrigation water is applied to. As the trees get bigger, their root zone also gets larger, so the area that needs irrigating also grows. While doing this replacement, I moved some recent leaf drop, and noted that the prior year’s compost ring had turned fully black, and I was ecstatic to see a large amount of life, pill bugs, worms, etc., that were crawling in a small 4″ diameter circle on the top of this compost. While I didn’t count them precisely, or take a picture, it seems like there were at least 25-50, maybe more, lifeforms moving in that 4″ circle, all visible with the naked eye!

I’ve always “non-scientifically” figured that it’s this kind of life that supports and perhaps creates the soil’s smaller microbe content which in turn feeds the trees or plants, reducing the need for synthetic fertilizer applications.

I’m hoping to spend a bit less time behind this computer and some more time outside in the near future.


According to this item, urine should be kept separate for recycling and purification.

Urine accounts for less than 1% of our waste water, but it contains 50-80% of the nutrients in the waste water. For this reason, it is extremely burdensome for our sewer water purification installations. In fact, it is illogical to allow such a dirty waste water flow to mix with other waste water, as has occurred in our sewers for more than a hundred years. There is growing support therefore for collecting and purifying urine separately. By separating urine, phosphate and nitrogen are more effectively removed. Phosphate can even be reclaimed as a raw material. Urine accounts for at least 50% of the phosphate in waster waste, (with phosphate being a raw material of limited availability), and for 80% of the nitrogen found in the waste water.

This claimed that it’s illogical to mix the two waste streams, yet I’m quite certain that running another set of pipes to and within every existing building would be a costly project. Hmm, urine has nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P), and we’re paying to dispose of it? Maybe it would be better to use it as part of the NPK macro-fertilization needs of nearby plantings, it’s only missing K. This is something to look at more closely. According to Wikipedia, urine also has some K.

Urine contains large quantities of nitrogen (mostly as urea), as well as significant quantities of dissolved phosphates and potassium, the main macronutrients required by plants. Diluted at least 8:1 with water it can be applied directly to soil as a fertilizer. Undiluted, it can chemically burn the roots of some plants, but it can be safely used as a source of complementary nitrogen in carbon rich compost.[10] Urine typically contains 70% of the nitrogen and more than half the phosphorus and potassium found in urban waste water flows, while making up less than 1% of the overall volume. Thus source separation and on-site treatment has been studied in Sweden as a way to partially close the cycle of agricultural nutrient flows, to reduce the cost and energy intensivity of sewage treatment, and the ecological consequences such as eutrophication, resulting from an influx of nutrient rich effluent into aquatic or marine ecosystems. The fertilization effect of urine has been found to be comparable to that of commercial fertilizers with an equivalent NPK rating. [11]

However, depending on the diet of the producer, urine may also have undesirably high concentrations of various inorganic salts such as sodium chloride, which are also excreted by the renal system. Concentrations of heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, commonly found in solid human waste, are much lower in urine (though not low enough to qualify for use in organic agriculture under current EU rules). [12] Some have expressed concern as to the health consequences of the hormones and pharmaceuticals found in the human waste stream being recycled through the agricultural system.[citation needed] Proponents of urine as an agricultural fertilizer usually claim the risks to be negligible or acceptable, and point out that sewage causes more environmental problems when it is treated and disposed of compared with when it is used as a resource. Critics counter that more research is needed into how the resource is to be collected, processed and handled.[citation needed]

It is unclear whether source separation and on site treatment of urine can be made cost effective, and to what degree the required behavioral changes would be regarded as socially acceptable, as the largely successful trials performed in Sweden may not readily generalize to other industrialized societies.[11] In developing countries, the application of pure urine to crops is rare, but the use of whole raw sewage (termed night soil in China) has been common throughout history.

I’ve been aware for some time that adding nitrogen to a compost pile helps decompose it faster, a number of sources have said to add a little synthetic fertilizer, something I don’t favor, so I’ve taken a mechanical shredding approach which also helps speed decomposition, as does adding grass clippings which I’ve read have a low C:N ratio, and perhaps have verified by noting some years ago that it composts quickly. However, adding urine could be an interesting approach.

It’s a little problematic that in some countries urine is not considered an “organic” amendment. It’s a bit perplexing to think of us animals, and our products, as synthetic, though I suppose what goes in also comes back out, changed perhaps, but not necessarily natural when one thinks of the various ingredients, particularly synthetic preservatives, added to factory-made foods.

I wonder where the lead, mercury, and cadmium comes from reportedly in solid waste. I seem to recall that old sewer pipes, the iron type, were connected using lead that was melted onsite. That may not have been pure lead, it may have had other alloys added at the joints where the pipes connect to impart particular working characteristics. Another pipe connection method used a specially made packing material that as I understand it, was worked cold.


2009.05.12

The Hill reports that Rep. Kucinich is a little upset with the White House over health-care insurance, saying the new plan is an “unconscionable rip-off” and “Just like we bailed out the banks, we’re bailing out the insurance industries“.


2009.05.11

This item from Rawstory caught my attention, it’s about how New York City (NYC) is charging homeless folks, if they’re employed, up to 50% of their income for homeless shelters. According to Rawstory, the NY Daily News reported recently that NYC recently asked local churches to stop providing beds. Rawstory also cites a NYTimes article that states bills are sometimes placed under a door:

Vanessa Dacosta, who earns $8.40 an hour as a cashier at Sbarro, received a notice under her door several weeks ago informing her that she had to give $336 of her approximately $800 per month in wages to the Clinton Family Inn, a shelter in Hell’s Kitchen where she has lived since March.

According to an Internet search, the Clinton Family Inn is considered a Tier II shelter. So that explains the the notice that was put “under her door”. But up to 50% of her income? It appears Vanessa was paying about 41% of her income as the article reports it. That’s even higher than is recommended for a mortgage ratio, and with a mortgage, there is usually a tax benefit, so for someone renting, the ratio should probably be less to be fair. So it seems to me to be gouging the poor. According to citylimits.org, the city pays Tier II landlords up to $3000 per month. No wonder NYC wants the homeless to help pay. It seems Real Estate is now too valuable to have room for very low-wage workers.

Perhaps the federal government needs to have an Indian-reservation like plan for the homeless, a land set aside, away from established city centers, where the homeless can go to live if they choose and have some limited sovereignty there, where local police wouldn’t come looking for them to bulldoze their “encampments” as it is often framed by the news. If they want to live in a tent, then fine. If they want to build an adobe moon-dome from dirt and sandbags, then fine. They would need some water and some fertile land so they could grow some of their crops, and some limited educational programs to help them learn how to recycle their sewage so it wouldn’t transmit disease. This could provide a release, an alternate type of life, for some of the chronic homeless whom the economy has failed to serve.

For an alternate perspective, Roll back rents has some thoughts.


2009.05.10

There’s been “buzz” about a health care plan soon to be announced that will save $2 trillion over 10 years. So does this compare favorably with H.R. 676’s estimated savings?

According to HHS.gov, in 2007 total healthcare expenditures were about 2.2 trillion. According to John Conyer’s information page about H.R. 676, it is estimated to save about $387 billion per year. That’s about an 18% savings when compared to 2007 expenditures. Multiplying $387B out by 10 years results in $3.87 trillion in savings over the same time period.

It appears that H.R. 676 saves roughly double what the “new corporate plan” is promising.


2009.05.09

According to the San Diego Union Tribune, (via rawstory) Bob Filner and a few others were arrested after an act of civil patriotism when a renovated restaurant complex under new ownership refused to keep union help upon reopening, and chose instead to go non-union. The patriots were estimated at 80 strong.


2009.05.08

Propublica is reporting that Dennis Kucinich has written a letter to AIG and demanded to know whether and why AIG has routinely denied medical care payment for injuries sustained by civilian contractors in Iraq:

“Apparently, AIG is profiting both by charging unreasonably high premiums to contracting firms and by denying or delaying legitimate claims of civilian workers for medical care and other services needed as a result of war zone injuries,” Kucinich wrote.

The findings are “all the more disturbing,” Kucinich wrote, given that AIG has turned federal supplicant, with promises of almost $70 billion in taxpayer aid to date. “The Subcommittee is interested in obtaining information from AIG shedding light on why there has been such a high rate of denials and unreasonable delays in processing claims, and why it is reaping such huge profits at taxpayers’ expense,” Kucinich wrote.

While corporate parasitism is nothing new, running for at least 100 years now, right now is also a time when health care and medical-care insurance is a topic of reform. Therefore, I found the following OpEd somewhat disturbing, it’s about the arrest of a Dr. Margaret Flowers, a former physician who is trying to get Congress to consider all reform proposals, including single payer, fairly considered:

Our first goal was to have a seat at the table. That has been a request to Congress throughout this year, really since the presidential election. All we’ve asked is that when the government looks at options for health care reform that single payer is given equal attention. We would like the Congressional Budget Office to review the cost of improving and expanding Medicare to everyone. We know that this is an affordable way to provide health care to everyone.

So, the very companies that are in financial trouble and receiving record amounts of taxpayer assistance and government largess, like AIG, banks, et al., are also seemingly somehow able to keep lower-cost health-care proposals like H.R. 676 off the table of congressional discussion.

There’s something seemingly wrong with the whole picture.

A second article with a similar title, but with more information about Fowler’s advocacy:

Right now 30% of our health care dollars go towards bureaucracy and not to direct health care. This bureaucracy, imposed by private health insurers, is designed to restrict and deny health care. If we remove the private health insurance industry, we save around $400 billion each year on administrative costs alone. This money can be used to pay for health care.

2009.05.07

It seems that not only has there been more discussion and debate about marijuana legalization, it also seems to be getting more public agreement:

New Poll: 52% Say Marijuana Should Be Legal, Taxed, Regulated May 6, 2009 WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new Zogby poll commissioned by the conservative-leaning O’Leary Report has found 52 percent voter support for treating marijuana as a legal, taxed, regulated substance. The survey, published as a full-page ad in today’s issue of the political newspaper The Hill, polled a sample of 3,937 voters weighted to match the 2008 presidential outcome — 54 percent Obama voters and 46 percent McCain supporters.

More discussion, as well as a breakdown of the results nationally can be found here.


I was directed to do a little search and reading on helplessness, and found a curious and interesting paragraph, typos notwithstanding:

Learned helpless students do not fit under the intrinsic motivational characcteristic. They fit more in the area of extrinsic motivation (Stipek, 1988). This motivation is based on external rewards, the avoidance of threats or punisshments, gaining recognition, and conforming to socially accepted behavior. Learned helpless students try to avoid failure and punishment from their teachers. They try to become recognized by others through being the class clown, tease, or bully, and they only work for external rewards because they have no interest to do a task but to get a grade, a sticker , a candy, a token, etc. When they go into thie adolescent years they become very antisocial in order to conform to socially accepted behavior. Learned helpless students feels the need to respond to socially prescribed demands, limits and patterns of behavior. Extrinsic motivation is also oriented towards seperable goals, rewards, contingencies and values upon individual’s satisfaction of the task. Learned helpless students feel as if they have no choices because no matter what they do they will fail.

It strikes me that this would be a very good quality for people in a capitalistic society to express (or to be impressed with), to take sole solace in extrinsic rewards … like … Money! Greed, ain’t it grand?


Continuing with the idea that “This is a time for reflection, not retribution,” there have been a number of articles on torture in the last few days, the first one I noticed was this propublica.org article about psychologists’ involvement, and their objections or silence, with torture.

According to that article, one of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency memos on prisoner “exploitation” said, “may be very effective in inducing learned helplessness and breaking the [Afghan] detainees’ willingness to resist.” Another point it brings up is that Banks, “chief of the Psychological Applications Directorate at the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command”, presumably one of the military’s head psychologists, doesn’t appear to have objected to psychological exploitation techniques, only physical ones; and further, even these objections, reportedly expressed by him in an email, never seemed to make it into reports that went up the chain of command.

Here’s another few torture items, the first one is about a psychologist’s assertion that community good is more important than individual good and human rights. Anyway, you should go to the link and read the precise block-quote, as my paraphrase is undoubtedly inaccurate. It’s sad for me to think that this person is essentially arguing against the U.S. Constitution itself, and even it’s basis. Waxing rhetorical, perhaps that quoted author believes the Declaration of Independence should have read, “… certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure abuse these rights, Governments are instituted …”

One more item on torture, and below it is a comment written by a Micheal Collins, who linked to a Salon article about torture (excerpt follows) that also mentions “helplessness” in relation thereto. However, that is not what grabs my attention most, this is:

Soldiers undergoing SERE training are subject to forced nudity, stress positions, lengthy isolation, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, exhaustion from exercise, and the use of water to create a sensation of suffocation.

It’s sobering to look at that list of items SERE soldiers are trained with, and ask oneself how many of those items K-12 students also experience at times. Certainly not all of them, but some of them, certainly, but probably to a less-extreme intensity, and perhaps more so for some selected students incurring the wrath of administrators.

I believe it should be obvious that the problem here is not just about a few folks who did something wrong, but instead is reflected in an entire structure including a U.S. K-12 compulsory system that seems designed to make us look outside ourselves for extrinsic rewards and which creates some degree of Learned Helplessness in all of us. One must even question the role some psychologists may have had not only in tailoring the big-picture items surrounding how we educate our children, a process that seems to result in a number of these children later going into the workforce and refusing to rock the boat, “do what the boss says no matter what” (because of the ever-present threat that the extrinsic reward might be withheld), but also in how that relates, however distant it may seem, to alleged professional failures to point out explicitly and formally to their bosses that torture has little information-gathering value, besides being prohibited by such documents as the Geneva Conventions and other more recent agreements.


2009.05.05

Jason Furman, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, said in regards to Obama’s plan to eliminate some corporate tax loopholes, “the United States has the second highest statutory tax rate in the world, the official rate published in the tax code. But the United States also has more loopholes and special tax preferences than many other countries. As a result, the United States has a much lower effective tax rate. If you look at corporate taxes as a share of GDP they are below those of most major economies. The result is a tax code that is complicated, inefficient and unfair.”

The following PDF has a nice chart that is titled “Corporate Income Taxes as a % of GDP, Fiscal 1942 to Fiscal 2003” which illustrates part of Furman’s point. That same PDF says, “GM’s tax rate for the past three years was negative 1.3 percent”.

So, what is a negative tax rate? Wikipedia says, “a negative income tax (abbreviated NIT) is a progressive income tax system where people earning below a certain amount receive supplemental pay from the government instead of paying taxes to the government”.

Another PDF approaches the same phenomenon from a different perspective, look for the chart titled: “25 Companies with the Largest Total Tax Breaks vs. Changes in Capital Investment, 2001 to 2003“.

We clearly have an obvious and glaring dissonance between the corporate and human parts of our society. Once again it seems to hinge on the definition of “person”. I’m reminded of Orwell’s phrase, “some … are more equal than others”.


[sundry reading, or lack thereof] I was just looking for the RSS, atom, or other feed of the supremecourtus.gov site. I guess it doesn’t exist. I wonder why.

One positive thing that I noticed since Obama became president, the White House seemed to all of a sudden have RSS feeds for at least some of their site. When I had looked for them prior, I couldn’t find them: this is not to say they weren’t there, just that I wasn’t able to find them.

It would be nice to see the legislative and the judicial branches follow that example. So too with state as well as local.

It’s all about Openness and Transparency, or so I’ve read somewhere.


While on the topic of RSS feeds, I’ve been finding myself organizing the feeds in the feadreader by whether they include the full text, part text or snippet, or even no text and only the title.


2009.05.04

A pharmaceutical company allegedly paid a scientific publisher to publish marketing work as a peer-reviewed journal! This according to Honest Pharma Not, which itself references another blog with the meat of the story.

On a similar or related topic, a day or two ago there was a hard hitting posting at OpEd News titled, “Mexican Flu Outbreak 2009: SPECIAL REPORT by Dr Leonard Horowitz“, curiously, the link that worked for it now goes to their front page, so I substituted another link that’s working at the time of this writing. There are other links with more information if you wish to search it out, but a bunch of it is fear based, and I don’t think that’s the best way to approach this. Keeping the spirits up is supposed to really work!

I’ve read that flu and pneumonia were the primary killers in the old days several centuries ago. Easy come easy go. It would be nice if we could figure out how to make the part in the middle just as easy.


2009.05.02

Here are a couple of items, the first one initiates lots of deep thought, or at least it did for me, it’s about how to build a culture of trust in politics, while the second news item undoubtedly parries with the first by offering the stark contrast of our current political reality of concealment (via a RawStory link).

Unfortunately, I have no new solutions to this dichotomy between what is said is desired in politics and what is done in politics. It is not a new topic, this theme also was present some years ago. One very old solution is simply to get the money out of politics and legislation, something else that’s been chatted about for decades as well as centuries (read the Articles of Confederation sometime), but it never happens. All accounts are that money has played an increasing role in politics and legislation over time.

One of my solutions, which I’ve been assured could never happen in discussions I’ve had elsewhere, is to give every congressperson the line-item veto on every bill they vote upon. This is much different in concept to giving the Executive Branch the line item veto, which serves only to increase the power of that branch which is by most all accounts already far too powerful. When a line-item veto is given to the Executive Branch, ultimately there is only one person who decides: when it is instead given to the representative and senatorial bodies, there are many folks that must agree, and therein lies a vast difference.

Giving “phrase voting” to every Representative and Senator would cancel out a lot of earmarks, as well as phrases that nobody but a few understand (arguably the more important point). If you don’t understand that phrase, just don’t vote for it, but still vote on other phrases in the bill that you do understand and agree with.

It’s my belief this would stop dead it its tracks the phenomenon where our laws increase both in wordiness and in specificity (micromanagement), and which simultaneously goes past the point where folks agree and treads into where they do not agree (which has the additional effect of keeping us divided amongst ourselves). I believe this would result in a slimmer body of law that has the broader concepts that the majority can agree upon and that most folks can understand, as well as lacking the more divisive and aggressive elements upon which there is substantial disagreement.


A good OpEd with some salient points about a proposed rescue to Chrysler, by Dave Lindorf. He says that under the proposed rescue plan, Chrysler workers would own 55% of the company, but would only get 11% of the board member seats, something he characterizes as a “token”, and that Chrysler workers have been down this same road before. Here’s a particularly poignant paragraph of Workers Always Lose:

Of course, if you step back a minute and think about it, it was corporate managers, put in place by boards of directors who represent the elite of the Wall Street investment crowd, who have run most American companies, and indeed the whole US economy, into a ditch. These supposedly smart folks with their fancy MBAs and PhDs and law degrees have outsourced jobs, pillaged the environment, destroyed communities, piled on debt, failed to modernize and invest in R&D, laid off highly skilled workers in favor of lower paid, less skilled workers, poisoned and injured their own workforces, made stupid acquisitions motivated by a desire to aggrandize more power or more market share, rather than to achieve real synergies, and have pilfered corporate resources to boost their own undeserved obscene levels of compensation.

So, we have schools that pseudo-rape some of their honor students, as well as other students, leading them directly to failure; a workforce that keeps getting the shaft; and in contrast against that we have bankers that have recently received corporate welfare to an unprecedented degree when they’re failing, who themselves led a largely unnoticed government coup back in 1913. Seems like the dots are getting connected, no? It seems we now have bankers in charge, they even “own” congress, according to Senator Dick Durbin.

Maybe someone should just tell the workers to go home on strike, and everyone else in the entire country should support them, and go home in sympathy strike, this includes the students as is reportedly done in France. Maybe that would get the attention of those entities who worship the money god above all else.

Hey, it would probably help with H1N1’s spread, as well! Just go home and do whatever it is that you normally do there to relax and enjoy.

2009.04.30

According to scotusblog.com, Justice David Souter will be retiring.


While this is from a few days back, this excerpt about Savana Redding struck me hard. It’s about a grade school strip search of a student caught up in the administrative zeal to find banned ibuprofen.

… No drugs were found. But even those justices lacking a daughter, a niece, or a uterus had access to an amicus brief in this case documenting the fact that student strip searches “can result in serious emotional damage” and that student victims of strip searches “often cannot concentrate in school, and, in many cases, transfer or even drop out.” Savana Redding, herself a data point, described the search as “the most humiliating experience” of her life. Then she dropped out of school.

This was an honor student that the school transformed into a drop out! She’s another casualty of the police state’s War on Drugs, in this case to unsuccessfully find the prescription- or double-strength of the same medicine found in an OTC and non-narcotic pain killer, one we all probably have in our home medicine cabinets.

What better argument is there that compulsory attendance at school must be compensated time, i.e., where the student is paid for their time when they attend. At least then Ms. Redding would still have had the cash rewards for her time wasted by the state (and so would all her classmates). It may have been little consolation, but a little is better than none at all.

There’s very little difference between this incident and a rape, where the latter just has an additional final act, but the steps leading up to it would seem much the same.

I wonder what kinds of mass outcomes this type of abuse tends to result in when an unspecified portion of the populace is forced to experience it. What is it like to drop out as a result of administrative power-abuse, then individually what does it feel like when your president tells you you’re unpatriotic for not wanting more pseudo-rape education in your life, “And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country“? Individually, the local administrator on a power trip pseudo-rapes you, while the more distant, mass administrator or top executive initiates a guilt trip for your natural reaction to the local administrator’s arbitrary and capricious actions. Is this oscillation conducive to either individual’s or individuals’ mental health?

(another aside: this seems a repeating pattern we’ve seen in California with medical marijuana that is and has been legal for patients with a prescription for it, but that [more local] county administrators deny through such mechanisms as refusing to issue ID cards as required by law, supervisors who have proven they will use the police to hassle their own residents and citizens who may need to utilize marijuana for their own or their patients’ individual health care)

Do you watch more TV (cable … Kaching) afterward, or something else, to escape? Watch those advertisements … Kaching. Take more medicines to forget or cope? Kaching. Visit more therapists, themselves graduates of the same corrupt system? Kaching. Are the schools deliberately destroying some folks, specifically to enable multiple lucrative markets for their chosen ones? Wouldn’t that be what the lawyers call “a conflict of interest”?

Is the only group for which “pursuit of happiness” has truthful meaning and modern intent are the chosen ones, the very ones who appear they cannot possibly understand being pseudo raped by the schools, because, hey, it didn’t happen to them.

One has to wonder what the Shadow’s selection criterion is to be a chosen one, if honor students are subjected to such administrative fear-hatred as this. Maybe there is no criterion, and it’s all a great big lottery based upon nothing more than either good luck or the absence of continuous good luck, and that the hard work that we’re often told is expected of us is a fool’s errand. Perhaps the criterion is whether you are a transnational corporation or are closely associated with one. If not, then too bad?

An alternative to paying K-12 students would be to stop paying anyone and everyone for their work, then at least we’d have a fair economic system, one that treats everyone’s work pretty much the same.


According to Glen Greenwald, Senator Dick Durbin, the Democratic Majority Whip, blurted out that the banks own Capitol Hill, he reportedly said they “own the place”. I suppose that with the billions (or is it trillions, I’ve lost count) bankers have recently received, it shouldn’t be news to much of the citizenry, but it’s good that a senator is stating this explicitly. Hopefully there will be some redundancy and repetition among our other legislators.

I believe the standard advice to kill a dangerous addiction is first acknowledging it, otherwise you’re in denial.


2009.04.29

According to The San Fransisco Chronicle, the California Supreme Court has left intact a lower court ruling allowing private schools to expel lesbians.

This is more proof that compulsory schools are primarily about punishment, and one more reason that students should be released from the state’s compulsory attendance requirement upon a single expulsion. If a student wants to go back to school after such a traumatic event as being expelled from one school over the possibility of sexual orientation, it should solely be the student’s lawful decision whether to sign up elsewhere, or instead have the right to decide to forgo the promise of future school-house punishments.

Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the law today. Surely these private schools benefit from the state’s compulsory requirement, a subsidy of sorts, yet these private schools have zero responsibility to their students to not ruin students’ future lives.

It occurs that this is a type of mental torture. It surely seems a reflection of administrative hatred, another facet of which seems to manifest as the reported serious physical and sanctioned torture in places like selected military prisons.


Sundry Reading (not news): It appears we can finally make homemade mayonnaise and its uncooked eggs won’t bother folks, because the “raw eggs” will be “pasteurized”!

How to pasteurize eggs at home:

http://www.georgiaeggs.org/pages/pasteurization.html

The above method may or may not be satisfactory for homemade mayonnaise due to the added liquid required which cannot be an oil.

http://www.christonium.com/culinaryreview/ItemID=11943886808367
Pay attention to comments. This method seems like a great way that doesn’t involve mixing the egg with other liquids, but getting the center of the egg to 140F degrees would seem difficult, so risk isn’t entirely eliminated.

According to the Science of Cooking, egg whites begin to solidify at 63C degrees, which seems to be around 145.4F degrees, while yolks begin their solidification at 70C degrees which seems about equal to 158F degrees.

Consequently, if the Science of Cooking is accurate (who knows) any home pasteurization method which involves bringing the egg to 160F degrees for any amount of time will also involve solidifying some portions of both the egg white and yolk. I’m pretty sure that would not be satisfactory for homemade mayonnaise (great tasting mayo is easy to make with raw eggs, but nobody around here but me wants to consume that). So for the entire egg (yolk and white) to remain entirely non-solidified, it can’t be brought to a temperature higher than or equal to 145F degrees.

Using the Georgia Egg Commission’s pasteurization method, “140 degrees reached and held for 3 minutes”, would seem the best way, but whether mixing the egg with any liquid, perhaps a small amount of water, would work for mayonnaise would require some experimentation. Mixing egg yolk with an equivalent amount of water seems to work very well for hollandaise sauce, but that sauce is cooked and mayonnaise isn’t, so the two processes probably can’t be directly compared.

If one wants to do the egg pasteurization process in the shell, it may be necessary to keep that egg in the 140F degree water for an extended time period, perhaps half an hour or even longer, as it seems it will take some time for the center of the egg to reach 140F degrees (based partly upon observation and experience of years of cooking eggs), and the amount of time it takes probably depends upon the eggs’ initial temperature. Unfortunately, some government references make the claim that eggs shouldn’t be kept at high temperatures for any length of time, such as anything over 2-hours.

It would be handy to have an electric pot with a highly accurate thermostat. With such a utensil, this egg pasteurization could be done without the need to watch the water temperature manually for any given period of time. In my experience most automatic cooking thermostats don’t seem very accurate, and I wouldn’t want to buy one without some guarantee of its calibration and accuracy. For this purpose, it seems like accuracy would need to be at least +/- 2.5F degrees of accuracy ([140-145]/2), and it would be even better if it was within +/- 1F degree. That way if it was set on 141F degrees, once the water reached that temperature, it would never go below 140F, and would also never exceed 142F (unless there was a malfunction), giving one a 3F degree buffer zone before the albumin or egg white begins to solidify, and which would allow one to set the thermostat as high as almost 144F degrees without running the risk of cooking the egg.

I’ve never seen a home cooking instrument (or a hotplate), with either degree of accuracy. Some electric pots advertise “Precision thermostat”, without specifying the degree of precision, which essentially makes it a rather meaningless phrase.

I’m guessing that it’s going to take more time to find one of these precision-temperature cooking pots than it would to watch and modulate a water-bath temperature manually. [update] I used a triple boiler, like a double boiler, but with an additional cup in it for the egg. However, it was painstaking to keep an eye on the thermometer and keep turning the flame on and off. I also found that the temperature differential needed to be rather larger than 4 degrees if one didn’t mind the egg’s temperature increase to slow once it had reached temps over 130F. My intuition was also telling me an issue is that the cup holding the yolk and white (mixed or scrambled), was allowing too much dispersion of heat, or the conduction of heat away from the egg, requiring a higher temperature differential than what I initially thought would be required. So perhaps the technique where the entire egg in the shell is surrounded by water of a modulated temperature would seem to be much more efficient.

Since mayonnaise only needs the yolk, and not the white, for the emulsification effect, and since the yolk doesn’t solidify until about 158F degrees, then perhaps solidifying the white is okay, with the objective of getting the center of the yolk to > 140F degrees for at least 3 minutes. Hmm, it’s an interesting idea for cooking a soft-boiled egg, to use a water bath that approaches but never quite reaches 158F degrees. However, modulating the water bath’s temperature manually is difficult. Maybe this is one meaning of “a watched pot never boils”, so, keep watching that pot!

Digital Thermostat 100C seems a shopping search keystring. Digital water baths seem to be laboratory grade instruments, and well above a reasonable price for a mundane kitchen appliance. This PDF of an electronic kit may provide part of a less expensive solution, but the relay or 120V AC part of the circuit may not be of sufficient amperage to support an electric hotplate when it’s on. It doesn’t seem to have a digital readout, and combining the two kits into one unit would seem to require a specialized power supply, one appears to use 12V, the other 9V. Oh, here’s the electronic-control motherlode, and it appears to be from homebrewers to homebrewers, electronic temperature controls (speaking of which, I’ve always meant to try homebrewing beer, there aren’t a lot of things you can do when you reach my age that you haven’t already tried — maybe someday).

As an aside, that referenced book, the Science of Cooking, actually gives an equation for precisely how long it will take for the center of an egg to reach a particular temperature! It looks like the kind of cookbook I would have loved to have had access to some years ago before I stopped collecting cookbooks. Now that I think of it, it’s probably the kind of cookbook any parent of school age children would want in their home bookshelf for their child’s educational reference.


2009.04.27

I saw a couple of news items today that Obama may restrict some of the practices associated with mountaintop mining. Dare we hope he’ll lead the way to outlaw the practice completely? A removed mountaintop can never be replaced.

He’s also appointed a bunch of science positions, and announced a plan to fund energy education efforts. Many of us were dreaming of solar energy back in the 70s, and the failure to get it and or other cleaner energy techniques to all of us by now seems like a massive educational failure, so the solution is funding more educational efforts.

I suppose that it’s possible the problem wasn’t as much a failure of energy education, as it was a failure of our economic system.


Here’s a good follow up on the my Earth Day thoughts of compost.

Garden of Eve farm really began as just a garden — Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht’s, to be exact. In 2001, a friend invited her to sell some of her vegetables that she’d grown at a farmers’ market in Long Island. She made $40 that day, and decided to take gardening to the next level. Today, the farm boasts 70 varieties of vegetables, 20 herbs and 30 flowers, all certified organic, across its 100 acres. 500 Rhode Island Red laying hens run wild and free, producing rich eggs that keep the customers coming back. There are seven beehives, not so much for producing honey as to promote healthy crops and biodiversity. This spring, the farm welcomed a small handful of baby lambs to join their few goats, sheep and guard dogs, and next weekend, they’re planning to bring some piglets down from Vermont’s Tamarack Hollow Farm. read more…

This is one of those feel good stories. I wonder how many just like her started out similarly, and didn’t make $40 on their first day, but had expensive booths to pay for, putting their first day, and however many days they continued to pursue that goal, at a loss and in the red.

One of the biggest attractions of the Southern California agricultural neighborhood that we moved into 10 years ago was all the local fruit and vegetable stands that some folks had in their front yards. It was great being able to buy some local produce, and not have to go to a grocery store to do so. A few years ago, maybe 5, those vegetable stands seemed to all or mostly disappear. Word was that some folks complained, and the county supervisors and their employees acted, even though our little town is said to be unincorporated. Now, I go to the local market, and I can’t even find locally grown fruits and vegetables, instead I end up going to the membership warehouse and buy lettuce that says it may have been grown in either the U.S. or the E.U. and if the latter, presumably must have been jetted halfway around the world. Me thinks the folks that may have complained to the county about local vegetable stands may have had financial conflicts of interest, and for me one magic of this little town is now in the history dustbin of memories of better times.


An interview with Ian Stephenson, a reincarnation researcher, that claims to have been published in Omni magazine (link via OpEdNews, via Grant Lawrence):

I cannot emphasize too strongly that a child who is going to remember a previous life has only about three years in which he will talk about it. Before the age of two or three he lacks the ability. After five, too much else will be happening in his life, and he will begin to forget.

I wonder about this. Reincarnation does begin to explain one possibility for why some people may have talents that don’t seem to come from any formal education they may have had.

I wonder how many parents just dismiss what their child might be saying, perhaps because they’re just a child and can’t possibly know anything yet, or perhaps children should be seen and not heard, or perhaps because their personal religious beliefs or lack thereof don’t accept the possibility of reincarnation or life after death, or perhaps another reason.


2009.04.26

Torture, the ailing economy, and swine-flu epidemics seem to be some of today’s main stories. Besides the seeming reality of the various reports and discussions, I wonder if they’re also metaphors of each other.

Because of that observation, perhaps it’s time to read a bit less of the news.


2009.04.25

Here’s a feel good story, Sacramento City Unified school district is reportedly expanding specialized programs of high school education.

The small schools are designed for no more than 500 students and are centered around unique education or career themes such as medicine.

The item says they have no money to currently enact the programs. However, this seems like a very smart move to make. There are a lot of questions besides money. How will schools identify students’ strengths?

In the item, Steinberg claims “many” were well served by their education, but that is a very unspecific statement. Since only about 25% of high school grads go on to get a college certificate, one can only believe a better choice of terms would have been “few”. But then when you have that college degree, and believe it did serve you well, it’s very easy to believe education will serve everyone else just as well, so when speaking to others of similar education level, you tell them what they want to hear.

Personally I see two MAJOR flaws with compulsory education. Failure to pay the kids for their labors, whether the government considers it labor or not, and two, failure to release kids from future compulsory education upon a single expulsion or suspension, and this latter point, as well as the former, can be broken into a single abstraction, that of punishment. It’s nice to believe that some students were rewarded, but hey, some people also believe the tooth fairy takes their baby teeth, leaving some money under the pillow in exchange.

In a capitalistic society, one is either paid for labor or one is a slave, and punished every day payment is not made for required work.

I see the schools themselves are concerned with money, so it is hypocritical for them to believe students should work for free. But hey, when I go to the grocery store and food is free, as well as having a comfortable and free place to call home, then I’ll stop complaining about students being forced to work for free. By then, if it ever comes to pass, we can all be non-paid volunteers, then perhaps there won’t be hypocrisy behind forcing students to work for free, though, there’s still that forcing concept to contend with.

When I went to school, the approved curriculum actually taught us that child labor had been outlawed. What a load of you know what. Only some types of child labor had been outlawed. It was the War on some Child Labor, perhaps analogous to the War on some Drugs. Divide then conquer.

It’s so nice to know, though, that education, in the end, actually worked for a few.

In other news today, Protestors are clashing with police over the handling of the economic crisis at an IMF meeting in Washington, D.C. Via democraticunderground.com.

I’m reminded of the Declaration of Independence for some reason. These days when I read that document, it’s like deja vu.

And I have a bit of my own news to report about country of origin labeling. For the first time I’m seeing multiple countries represented on product labels. I bought three heads of lettuce just yesterday at a membership warehouse, the bag said “Product of U.S.A / Produit de E.U.” (please note I’m going from memory, I may have the slash wrong). Some avocados for sale at another store were in a bin labeled “Product of U.S.A, Mexico, or Brazil.”

I’ve never seen such confusing labels before. The lettuce heads were not individually labeled, so I couldn’t figure out if they were grown in the U.S. or E.U.. Maybe they were transplanted halfway through their growth cycle, hydroponically transported and replanted so they ended up individually grown in both places? Or did the label mean they were grown in one of the two places, without specifying which? However, a few of the avocados were individually labeled. Those labeled fruits all said they were from Mexico, so does that mean the ones that weren’t individually labeled were from U.S.A and Brazil, or U.S.A or Brazil, or perhaps that the individual labels fell off the unlabeled fruits or were never labeled in the first place?

Oh, now here’s a newsworthy item, from Rawstory, via democraticunderground.com: Appeals court has ruled gitmo detainees are not persons within the meaning of a particular statue.

So, a century ago and over several decades of court rulings a doctrine of corporate personhood was defined, and now we’re beginning to see rulings that some humans are not persons.

It seems history is in a repeating time loop.


2009.04.24

Monsanto has been in the news recently. In several states, pigweed has become resistant to Roundup, the trade name for Monsanto’s glyphosate, a contact-herbicide. An Argentine science study has reportedly found that when glyphosate is injected into an embryo it alters cell division, possibly linking Roundup and or glyphosate to birth defects.

Germany has reportedly rejected one of Monsanto’s genetically modified crops, and Monsanto has responded by suing Germany.

Rob Kall, editor of OpEdNews, says that Monsanto has made life exceedingly difficult for one activist who’s been trying to bring the dangers of the company’s products to the public’s attention.


2009.04.22

Today is Earth Day, among other things a day to celebrate our connection to the earth, sometimes affectionately referred to as Mother Earth. As much as some might like to deny it, we are all connected to her, we are born of her, and when we die, our bodies shall return to her in one way or another. So if you have time, give thanks to her for all she does for all of us everyday. For but one small example, you might decide to look at some flowers growing outside somewhere. It’s easy enough to realize their beauty, all it takes is a thought, preferably a conscious one, though it can be silent, and in that moment, you have given thanks for a small part of her beauty.

Perhaps you could decide to help your community with recycling efforts, whether you understand them or not.

You could learn to make compost. I’ve been making my own for a number of years, it’s not that difficult, though I do limit it by only composting my own yard’s trimmings. When I make my own, the first step is to shred all the leaves, and the second is to place them in a pile, and the third is to add some water if needed. We have been advised by snail-mailings that our local fire code only allows a pile of 12″ depth. This seems to considerably slow the composting process probably because it limits the pile’s internal heat. Because of that limitation, there’s probably a change in the pile’s ability to self-sterilize seeds and I’d guess also a change in the pile’s microbial flora, though I’m sure it’s a reasonable code restriction for closely-built neighborhoods consisting mostly of homes built with wood-frame construction. Yes, some folks actually use thermometers to judge whether their compost is “composting” properly!

Compost begins to become a good source of plant fertilizer once it has aged well and the carbon:nitrogen has decreased to lower than 20 or thereabouts. That figure is what I recall from reading older writings, it was said that was about the ratio value where the absorption of N stops and the compost begins to be a nitrogen source, instead. There may be new research on the subject now that there’s been more interest in making compost over the last few decades. That ratio is an abstracted way of thinking about compost, and likely not too practical for most folks unless you have access to an agricultural laboratory, generally a rather expensive option mostly of use to commercial operations. However, the ratio is a good thing to learn about if such abstractions interest you, doing so helps the person directing composting efforts to consciously blend compost-pile ingredients that help speed up the decomposition process and result in a more balanced compost-as-fertilizer end-product.

One of my older observations is that when earthworms have arrived in my compost pile, and it’s both fine in coarseness and near black or very dark in color, the compost is ready to be used. Another even simpler sign is that weeds may start growing in it, presuming of course that it’s an open to air and sunlight compost pile and hasn’t been turned or worked recently.

Sadly, the techniques and knowledge of composting became obscured for some decades, perhaps for a century (in the U.S.), and when I was young, it was very difficult to find written information about it. Happily, this is no longer the case!

Making compost is actually an old farming technique, probably first adopted and used by those who noted that plants dropped their leaves (and other observations [for more advanced techniques]). Perhaps they noted that the upper layers of soil were of a different quality than lower levels, and then someone long ago must have attempted to duplicate nature’s process. Over long time periods, this leaf drop, and other events, caused the natural buildup of what slowly becomes compost and fertile topsoil. Mother Earth at work again! Thank you!

One of the mid-level techniques is the use of manure and other animal products in compost, and in addition to its other benefits such as adding a natural supply of primarily phosphorous and also usually some small amounts of potassium depending upon manure source, this can more quickly lower the compost pile’s carbon:nitrogen ratio. It works by speeding the breakdown of the woodier plant products which have much higher ratios (I’ve read that sawdust has a C:N ratio value of around 400), and the primary ingredient that does this is the manure’s N content. My readings on the subject have said that high C:N ingredients (such wood chippings) absorb N during their decomposition process which takes time and creates heat, then the wood chips’ C:N ratio falls as decomposition proceeds. What do you do if you don’t have an animal farm and a ready source of raw manure? Humanure offers one set of suggestions. However, it’s often cautioned that some animal manures may transmit diseases, so additional sterilization steps should probably be taken. It’s possible that it’s not very cost efficient to pay to dispose of something that has fertilizer value, then turn around and buy manure, paying even more. In our area, and given that fire codes only allow 12″ depth compost piles, and the further observation that this tends to reduce their heat somewhat as well as the size of the center of the pile where most of the heat is located, I wonder if pretreatment with solar sterilization would suffice (I don’t know, just thinking outloud), something like baking it in a solar oven for some period of time. [update] It seems there are others who think that solar baking kills a lot of pathogens, from solarcooking.org. In the following excerpt, SBC stands for Solar Box Cooker:

MEDICAL WASTES—DECONTAMINATING: Soiled bandages and bedding, infectious body drainage, feces from intestinal diseases, and other infectious material may be placed directly in an SBC and thoroughly cooked to kill most infectious agents. How long it takes should be determined by specific circumstances. The SBC heat-treated materials will be disinfected although some heat-resistant spores may still be viable. A separate SBC is recommended for this use.

Folks who are farmers will probably note the NPK values of fertilizers (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) that they’re so used to working with are also represented in some of the potential compost pile ingredients. An Internet search will provide some listings of NPK values of various manures.

Here’s the best online essay I’ve ever read about compost and earthworms, though it’s not a ‘how to make compost’ article per se.

Composting in closed up plastic trash bags may to some degree simulate the anaerobic conditions of peat bogs. While I haven’t used this technique in many long years, I believe I read once that it was a way to create acidic compost, though I’ve not tested this out, so consider it just a rumor. It could make an interesting science project for grade school. Plants are sensitive to the pH of soil, and having some acidic compost, given the high cost of peat moss, means that anaerobic composting could be a valuable soil-pH-modification technique for alkaline soils, if indeed it works. Oh, what the heck, I decided to see if I could find it again, hopefully without spending much time, and wadda’yaknow, here it is: anaerobic composting (PDF). From that document, “…the extra acidity caused by anaerobic composting.”

Here are a couple of search engine results for compost that may be more along the lines of, simplistically, how to make it:

http://www.howtocompost.org/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compost

When rereading that statement about extra acidity of anaerobic composting, I realized it’s the same thing that is said to happen with bread dough as it ages, that the dough gets more acid with more time, as yeast is filling the inside of the dough with CO2, not air which contains oxygen, therefore bread dough rises should also be anaerobic. It’s odd how all of these various techniques are used in industry, but we don’t learn any of them in school, or at least we didn’t when my generation was forced to go. It’s enough to make one believe compulsory education is deliberately engineered to keep us both ignorant and dependent while publicly proclaiming the opposite! I hope that all the talk of reducing CO2 production and the creation of suspect financial derivatives and carbon credits for industry and corporations isn’t a backdoor anti-competitive method of increasing costs for home bread bakers while simultaneously giving the large corporate mass-production bread bakers a competitive advantage… Lots of us bake our own breads, in part, to save money because we don’t have a choice about the inequitable distribution of money in our society. Via Wikipedia, Yale University economics professor William Nordhaus says it will raise the cost of a loaf of bread by 30 cents, but does that include all the middle folks and their markups which I’ve found are usually desired as percentage markups?

Wikipedia
A harmonized carbon tax would raise the price of a good proportionately to exactly the amount of CO2 that is emitted in all the stages of production that are involved in producing that good. If 0.01 of a ton of carbon emissions results from the wheat growing and the milling and the trucking and the baking of a loaf of bread, then a tax of $30 per ton carbon will raise the price of bread by $0.30. The “carbon footprint” is automatically calculated by the price system. Consumers would still not know how much of the price is due to carbon emissions, but they could make their decisions confident that they are paying for the social cost of their carbon footprint.

As long as our corporatist police policy state doesn’t decide to upstream disrupt the supply of flour and yeast to citizens as they have with precursor chemicals like cheap and effective generic allergy medicines (pseudoephedrine, a huge win for citizens back in the 70s that lowered OTC medicine costs) in their stupid War on some Drugs, then we’ll still be able to bake our own bread (but will we get less economic savings from doing so?).

Nordhaus says the increased costs will be concealed to citizens, but I believe that since corporations who’ve purchased credits (not concealed) can also deduct their transportation costs (gasoline and oil-based hydrocarbon) as an expense and citizens cannot (personal expenses not deductible), corporations effectively get another ratcheting up of a subsidy that citizens don’t get, and the icing on the cake for them is that since it’s a concealed tax with respect to retail products prices, no citizens will will be able to analyze it: whether the guess of a .30 cent retail increase is accurate, or not; whether the tax applied to a bag of flour is less than the tax on a flour-weight equivalent amount of baked loaves of bread, which it is represented that it should be due to the baked breads additional energy inputs.

It seems the carbon tax applied on any and all products should be disclosed at the retail level, because there’s no other way to know if the tax is being fairly and accurately applied. An additional matter is that all advertised prices should be the total price including all taxes and including a breakdown of all taxes applied, so that citizens can choose the most economically efficient distribution chain, and also analyze the tax components thereof. After all, corporate seems to generally have a long and illustrious history of creative accounting, and what seems a pattern of misrepresentation and a desire to hide facts. Citizens need protection from that, and it seems the best protection is self-protection through open disclosure and transparency.

Regulation has generally failed in the past because of what seems to be classifiable as legalized corruption and bribery.


2009.04.18

According to Glenn Greenwald, during the last few days the Obama administration has released some torture memos, memos that are said to be required to be released in relation to a lawsuit. Greenwald’s Update II references an ACLU repository for the recently released torture memos.

When I read portions of the Geneva Conventions, at least a few years ago, and while I cannot remember the precise language, I do recall that humane treatment of prisoners seemed required.

I find myself wondering if we’re viewing the very real effects of “the shadow” (quoted as I’m using it as a metaphor).

While some of my thoughts below may seem unrelated, I find myself absolutely amazed to watch movies today that some decades ago I thought were great movies, but now I find the violence depicted within them, at least somewhat if not a great deal, off putting. To what degree did those moving pictures program our minds to accept violence as the way things must be. Undoubtedly related to this is the Affect, a term used in part by psychologists to classify events and memories that are impressed by emotional stimuli:

Affect, like the adjective affective, refers to the experience of feeling or emotion.[1] Affect is a key part of the process of an organism’s interaction with stimuli. The word also refers sometimes to affect display, which is “a facial, vocal, or gestural behavior that serves as an indicator of affect.” (APA 2006) The affective domain represents one of the three divisions described in modern psychology: the cognitive, the conative, and the affective. Classically, these divisions have also been referred to as the “ABC of psychology,” in that case using the terms affect, behavior, and cognition.

It’s been said that the best art is that which provokes emotion within us. But what kind of emotions are being preponderantly created and disseminated by what Joe Bagent calls our Theater State?

If I recall history, the television didn’t become an effective mass-market device until sometime in the 1940s or perhaps later, maybe the 50s. Wikipedia claims that the 1930s saw TVs as commercially available, that advertising was adopted in the 1940s, but what I mean is percentage of households that had them, and amount of hours spent viewing them. Next to consider is when was violence as a mass-market plot-conflict explicitly depicted on screen with all the modern day special effects of blood and gore and most importantly, Fear with a capital “F”, to keep us on the “edge of our seats.”

The Geneva Conventions were re-written back in 1949, therefore based upon the similar correlating timeline, I find myself wondering if what we’re seeing with official justifications of torture is partly due to changing internal (mental) values that have occurred since 1949, perhaps due to an extreme accentuation of The Shadow of Fear that now exists within most or all of our minds.

One could take this line of reasoning far past torture memos, to conceptions of business itself as war, to internal mental justifications that when we make hundreds of millions per year it’s all due to our own efforts and we need not give back to those who helped us get there; that the homeless deserve their plight; that poor folks don’t deserve healthcare if we can’t afford to either buy it outright or purchase private-insurance coverage for it; that people dying of hunger simply didn’t work hard enough; “The War on __________” (insert favorite negative or fear-based catchphrase); etc., etc….

Many of us learned when young that physical violence directed against other humans was and is simply not tolerated, it’s only later when we get older and learn more that we find that there are times that it’s legally justified (such as self-defense in very limited circumstances), yet our minds en-masse have been subject to daily doses of picture-based violence programming (Corporate or State Theater), in spite of those legal prohibitions against actual violence. In a sense, we’ve all been subject to the “mental pictures” only a very unfortunate few would have been subject to in prior eras, had they miraculously survived (highly unlikely) similar extreme and real events often depicted in modern motion pictures.

It seems there are at least two very big potential dangers of violence depicted in motion pictures: We may make a mental connection that the violence is not physically harmful, at least within the context of viewing the movie; and two, some of the more artful depictions of such violence may impress within our minds through Affective processes, and we may remember those scenes for years. I guess a question that needs to be asked and discussed is whether having those mental pictures alters our mass behaviors in any ways, but particularly in un- or sub-conscious ways that are detrimental to all of us together.

Violence depicted within motion pictures is a relatively new phenomenon with respect to the historical course of modern humans’ planetary existence, it’s even new when viewed relative to the total existence of the current civilization era, or even the existence of the U.S. itself, though much less so. Most of us alive today are probably not old enough to remember a day prior to the existence of mass-disseminated TV.

How this created “extreme mind shadow” might physically manifest in our various occupations could not only be quite broad, but also quite unexpected.


2009.04.16

Scientists have reported that they may have found the problem with honey bee colony collapse, and they have a treatment that cures bees from and in the affected hives. I don’t have the link where I read this item a day or two ago, but a search turns up the good news.

On another topic that’s not really a news item, and while I generally don’t like to take quotes out of context, or create an excerpt without adding something substantial of my own, I guess I’m going to make an exception, as this sentence seemed to just jump off the page: “Avaricious individuals may acknowledge one reaps what one sows.” It’s an essay well worth reading.


2009.04.14

A few items that seem like good news!

It’s raining as of 5:15 PM in our little corner of Southern California. That’s practically a miracle all on it’s own. Thank you!

Today there are two marijuana stories, one from a source I characterized yesterday as “mainstream”. The Sacramento Bee reports that the Mexican Congress is debating marijuana legalization. The second is via Talk Left which excerpts and references a NORML blog posting, Calling All College Campuses To A National Marijuana Forum. From NORML:

“National Marijuana Forum
April 18-20, 2009
University of Colorado, Boulder

It seems there’s going to be some discussion, as Mexico’s U.S. Ambassador suggested on Face the Nation yesterday.

While on the subject of college students, the Electronic Frontier Foundation issued a press release announcing a motion to squash a search warrant which was served on a Boston College student and resulted in the loss of his computers and various other electronic devices. What the court will decide is currently unknown, but portions of the release border on being humorous, and certainly seem absurd. From their release (pay particular attention to EFF’s quoted words):

“The dorm room search stemmed from an investigation into who sent an email to a Boston College mailing list alleging that another student was gay. Police say they know who sent the email and that the sender committed the crimes of “obtaining computer services by fraud or misrepresentation” and obtaining “unauthorized access to a computer system.” However, nothing presented by the investigating officer to obtain the warrant, including the allegation that the student sent the email to the mailing list, could constitute the cited criminal offenses.

“Some of the supposedly suspicious activities listed in support of the search warrant application include: the student being seen with “unknown laptop computers,” which he “says” he was fixing for other students; the student uses multiple names to log on to his computer; and the student uses two different operating systems, including one that is not the “regular B.C. operating system” but instead has “a black screen with white font which he uses prompt commands on.”

EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman says campus police are on a “fishing expedition”. We’ll see what the court decides.

That’s the end of the better, “feel good” news.

Econospeak had a curious posting titled Reparations. While the topic is undoubtedly an important one centered around justice and a fair society, a couple of sentences stood out:

“The owner of an indenture contract could extend the term of service pretty much at will for a whole range of real and imagined “offenses,” and dying from hard usage (poor food and corporal punishment) wasn’t exactly rare.

I find myself wondering when there will be reparations for all those from compulsory education that didn’t later economically thrive? What about the chronic homeless, a large portion of which are veterans, who die living in the streets, being chased out of what Mainstream routinely characterizes as “encampments” under the demands of those who better adapted to the post-compulsory-school-years’ parasitic economic system. In essence, compulsory education was a tax, extracted from us before the law said we were legally allowed to labor. You’re “not laboring” as a child because ‘those who know better’ declare your time spent in compulsory education isn’t labor!

While I don’t have the link, recently I read a posting about tithing 10%, but not to a church, instead to any thing or cause you support, and that if we did so, we’d get back more in return; that that was how money worked. Since our compulsory education years comprise about 10% of our total expected average lifespans, haven’t we already tithed enough to prove that assertion false? Anyone with only a high school diploma earning less than a living wage is still waiting for the payback of those early-year tithings taken by force from us by the state’s mandate.

The most curious thing to me is how ‘those who know better’ essentially set school kids up to expect no payment in return for work, meaning that when we reach our adult working years, working for less than we’re worth feels quite normal.

So back to school, this time college to learn even more, and if you do get that degree, you mostly likely find out later that what you’re able to earn doesn’t match what the CEO makes, and there aren’t any jobs available in your expertise area so you’re overqualified and certainly underpaid for that work you’re overqualified for. So, back to school again, and again, in a feedback loop.

Timothy Leary told us the solution to the feedback loop, “drop out.” In essence, it was sage advice, as our rulers can never be satisfied with us as a whole, only with a very small fraction of us to whom they shower great monetary riches, everyone else is just a serf. A cost. A burden.

The other day I noticed a news item in the San Diego Union Tribune about high-school drop-outs. This is one of those “Duh” studies, but that’s not what bothered me about it. The implication is that the school kids’ future labors are essentially owned by the cities, or rephrased, the kids’ value to the local government system is based upon either the benefits or costs they will later bring to the same system, and that is the be all end all of the kids’ value.

The kids are not being valued by our local overlords because they’re alive. Because they have goodness in their hearts. Because they have future lives of love and friendships to live out. Instead, compulsory school is now primarily about economic parasitism.

“life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness”


2009.04.12

I noticed a curious contrast in some new items about a single CBS TV Interview with Bob Schieffer on Face The Nation, which I did not watch, conducted with Mexico’s U.S. Ambassador, Arturo Sarukhan. The story is about the Mexico-U.S. border, guns, and money. And the interview was also apparently about marijuana, but you wouldn’t have known that by reading only some of the stories. At least four Internet outlets seems to have covered the interview. I’ve grouped them here to try to understand the contrast.

Alternative Media: Raw Story & Aid and Comfort had stories regarding how Ambassador Sarukhan called for a serious discussion regarding marijuana legalization.

Mainstream Media: The Sacramento Bee and the Wall Street Journal both had similar stories regarding guns and violence on the U.S.-Mexico border, in fact these two stories seem so identical, they appear to be rewritten copies of each other, but the Bee’s seems more complete.

While it’s just a guess, it looks like mainstream has decided to censor Ambassador Sarukhan’s drug legalization discussion statements for some reason. Reading the mainstream versus alternative source stories seem somewhat like living in two different worlds, even though all four are based upon one interview. If you don’t like the slant of one group, just change to the other! See, that way everybody’s happy. “Happy” until we try to come to a common understanding of the problem and how best to deal with it, that is.

Mainstream is concentrating on the problems, upon the fear, and offering “control” based solutions. Curiously, there is no mention of restricting the country-to-country flow of all money, just particular portions of it (this is a huge problem now with electronic currency that is transferred around the world in milliseconds, allowing the free flow of money, but restricting the flow of humans who are laborers, so any “free market” derived from such a system is essentially “rigged” in a supply-demand sense in the favor of large corporations moving money and against humans looking for better wages and opportunities). More border inspections. Perhaps more inspections of individuals purchases. More police. More authoritarianism. More delays. Mainstream’s solution is calling for the spending of vast sums of money on interdiction and control, with an implication of greater information gathering along with it’s 4th Amendment implications, judging some money as “good” and other money as “bad”.

Alternative’s implied solution, were the Ambassador’s call for serious discussion to result, at some point, in decriminalization or legalization, regulation, and taxation, is much more along the lines of a live-and-let-live conception. Alternative’s solution is first, let’s discuss this openly.

So, is it better for our government to spend money “forcing” and “controlling” all people for the actions of some, in what appears to be a long-term failing effort, i.e., The War on Drugs: or is it better to earn money from legalized, regulated, and taxed marijuana?

“life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness”


2009.04.08

U.S. Representative Eric Massa is reported to say Time Warner’s Usage based Internet pricing plan looks like “corporate greed” and that we, presumably meaning congress, will use every tool to stop them.

[edit 2009.04.12] eWeek is reporting a number of additional details and quotes of Rep. Massa’s in regards to Time Warner’s Usage Caps.


2009.04.07

Joe Bagent had some pointed comments about corporatism, politics, and media’s critical role in creating a Theater State. Here are the paragraphs:

“Americans, regardless of income or social position, now live in a culture entirely perceived inside a self-referential media hologram of a nation and world that does not exist. Our national reality is staged and held together by media, chiefly movie and television images. We live in a “theater state.”

In our theater state, we know the world through media productions, which are edited and shaped to instruct us on how to look and behave and view the outside world.

One of the curious things I find about most of these arguments, is what they lack, what they don’t explicitly say. The school dimension is one such missing dot, rarely is it mentioned, except to march in lockstep to the education-is-always-good construct, which our media often frames as, “The opportunity of eduction.”

I know that as early as the 2nd, or maybe 3rd grade, we, my classmates and myself, were encouraged, back then, to bring newspaper-article clippings to class to share. Thus began the social conditioning to listen to others outside yourself, but not just those humans who were physically near, classmates and the teachers, but outsiders that were, and still are, abstracted through media. Some 40+ years later we’re still doing it. Read read read share, read read read share, maybe you get the point.

Why, why are we always looking outside ourselves for snippets of what we think is true, or even wrong and false? It’s a curious phenomenon. Oooh. Wrong and false? I’m sorry, you didn’t get an A+ on that test, maybe you’ll do better next time. Our educational years are spent punishing us to one degree or another upon the slightest flaw we might have, even if that punishment is as mild as a red-pen markdown on a test, demanding nothing less than absolute perfection from us. But as adults we’ve hopefully either learned there is no such thing as absolute perfection, or stated in the oxymoronic sense, that we are perfectly imperfect. Adults are often advised to “be positive”, to switch our mindset to the “pursuit of happiness” paradigm, to simply be happy, after our compulsory-school years were mostly spent teaching us the precise opposite.

Why is it that schools teach us with goal-oriented curricula, instead of opportunity-oriented learning that’s more like life is experienced by the vast majority of the adult population? Is it perchance that only top corporate executives are supposed to learn the secret of advantaging and leveraging opportunity? Or am I off base here? Maybe today opportunities are really only meant for “corporate persons”.

First you complete First Grade, then you go on to Second Grade. After learning the abc’s, then you’ll start on addition and subtraction…. All highly structured and goal oriented (there is little-to-no choice in a compulsory system). You take tests to prove, to others, you’ve met their goals. Maybe you make it through college, get a PhD or something roughly equivalent behind your name, in pursuit of that elusive goal which so few achieve, all so people will listen to you? Pay you the big bucks? All the while the executives are cashing in on everyone’s labor, with the top executives doing so well income wise it’s hard for 99.9999% percent of us (including the PhDs) to even imagine (here’s a chart, you may need to “zoom in”). Those few are “burning rubber” all the way to the bank, or maybe they already are the bank, and that bank just has a few favorite humans who do their bidding, so the corporate entity compensates them extravagantly, while everyone else can barely pay their bills.

If our lives truly are centered around opportunity, being in the right place at the right time, i.e., good luck, instead of wrong place or wrong time, i.e., bad luck, then why are goal-based methods used to teach us, which we then learn ourselves through the power of example, from our earliest years?

Perhaps it has to do primarily with teaching us to look outside ourselves both for our answers, and even before then, sometimes subtly, leading us to the correct questions to ask that, in turn, lead us to those answers others—properly trained, certified, and approved answers, of course—then give to us.

If any of this has any truth, then it seems there’s been a deliberate or engineered-by-others mental subterfuge, by entraining our minds so deeply when we’re young that the goal-based approach-to-life is sub-consciously or habitually pursued. Perhaps we’re taught the goal-based methodology, so that when our opportunities do come along, we’ll be so busy pursuing and struggling with what we now perceive, wrongly, are our goals, that even if we notice the opportunity when it occurs, we’ll choose, consciously or otherwise, to instead stick to the goals that others so cleverly convinced us were our goals.

To add one more opportunity obstruction to us as humans, advertising perhaps serves a reinforcing purpose. Most of us know that advertisers are trying to sell us something, usually a product or a service, but advertising also sells us ideologies, sometimes openly, other times not so openly. These sales jobs often manifest as careful framing of selected redundant and very short phrases, and sometimes these same frames are repeated across a wide media spectrum. The repetition occasionally occurs over time periods of years, decades, and even longer. So, is there a deeper purpose for surrounding us with advertising-supported media? Perhaps some advertising serves to confuse our minds when it comes to the real opportunities that sheer luck may present us with, serving us instead what I shall call pseudo-opportunities. By being surrounded with a saturation level of pseudo-opportunities at nearly all times, our minds are tricked, through confusion created largely by overwhelming displacement, that any real opportunities which might momentarily present themselves are likely nothing but a new variation of one of The Theater’s oft-repeated pseudo-opportunities.

Isn’t corporatism grand?


2009.04.05

The New York Times reports deaths due to Italian earthquake. How sad. Mother Nature reminds us once again who’s in charge.

[update, of the 12th, more recent stories put the death toll in the hundreds]


2009.04.03

Apparently, the Lawyers representing Gitmo detainees are threatened with jail sentence for writing letter to President Obama.

“Clive Stafford Smith is accused of ‘unprofessional conduct’ by Pentagon officials who monitor communication between Gitmo prisoners and their lawyers. Lawyers for Binyam Mohamed face the incredible prospect of a six-month jail sentence in America after writing a letter to President Obama detailing their client’s allegations of torture by U.S. agents.

This is quite bizarre. The Pentagon has censored a letter by an accused’s counsel to President Obama, a letter that allegedly followed the required classification rules, along with an admonishment that the letter didn’t follow some rules that allegedly were left uncited.

I’m not sure I understand the problem, for one would think that as the person at the top of the military chain of command, i.e., the “Commander in Chief” as I believe the President is called, surely would have enough security clearance to view anything written by an accused’s lawyer. Therefore, the President would be a person ‘within the chain of command’.

Is the Pentagon now the de facto Commander in Chief? Is that how deeply broken our nation has become?

No Lawyer should be subject to any jail sentence for writing a presumably respectful letter intended to be kept within the same chain of command, even if it was intended to go ‘straight to the top’ of that chain. It makes the whole process of detainment and trial seem like a real Kangaroo Court.

Perhaps the rest of us are next?

May President Obama have enough smarts to deal with this before it gets further out of hand, as so very many other things clearly have already.


Published by the same site back on March 28th, this item says Corporatism can be traced back to Higher Education.

In decaying societies, politics become theater. The elite, who have hollowed out the democratic system to serve the corporate state, rule through image and presentation. They express indignation at AIG bonuses and empathy with a working class they have spent the last few decades disenfranchising, and make promises to desperate families that they know will never be fulfilled. Once the spotlights go on they read their lines with appropriate emotion. Once the lights go off, they make sure Goldman Sachs and a host of other large corporations have the hundreds of billions of dollars in losses they incurred playing casino capitalism repaid with taxpayer money.

Now that was a powerful paragraph. The rest of the item is well worth reading.

It was my experience in California community colleges (this was some decades ago), that the campus police, perhaps because they work too closely with the staff, would believe a lying staff member, then turn around and stalk the accused student, themselves a citizen of the state and nation, and paying for the right to be there. In other words, students of any age simply were not and presumably are still not safe from campus police, who themselves are probably just doing their jobs as they’ve been trained and indoctrinated. If campus police were skeptical of the student, they also needed to be equally skeptical of the accuser. They weren’t.

The source of the police problem on California school campuses, particularly higher education, evidently is sourced within the text of the California constitution, coupled with some, perhaps only a few, deceitful folks who work within the same educational institutions. It may be that the system is set up the way it is so that on a staff member’s whim, the campus police then deliberately hassle the accused student.

Perhaps it’s one of those pecking order things, and in that respect, seems somewhat similar to the Gitmo Lawyer story above. How can a lawyer for an accused be lower in pecking order than the organization doing the imprisoning of the lawyer’s client? In similar fashion, a paying post-high-school student is a customer, and shouldn’t be lower in pecking order than a school employee or contractor.

If I had my druthers, some enabling portions of the California Constitution would be changed, specifically excised, with respect to that close and seemingly corrupt association between educational institutions and the police. It’s kind of sad that when one thinks of formal forms of education, or reads the words “education” or “training” or even “class”, corruption and tyranny immediately jump into mind.


2009.04.1

Time Warner CEO says to adopt Internet Cap and Usage charge.

Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt says in an interview. “We made a mistake early on by not defining our business based on the consumption dimension.” Time Warner Cable has 8.4 million broadband customers. “

I’m always amazed by the short or selective memory of folks, particularly overpaid executives and CEOs. It’s almost like they’re completely ignorant of the history of their own so-called field, feigned or not, and then they get paid the big bucks for their ignorance, while often telling the rest of the workers they don’t get paid more because they don’t yet know enough and that they need more training and education.

In the early Internet days when companies were trying to attract the general public to the service, the late 80s and early 90s, tiered pricing plans were tried, and they failed to attract a wide user base. Later, unlimited bandwidth plans, i.e., flat fee for access, were the very thing that grew a large Internet user base among the general public.

I wonder what would happen to the reading public if, at the local public library, charges were instituted simply for opening each and every book, and higher charges were made for larger books. While it’s just a guess, I bet they’d find a lot fewer folks using the library.

Perhaps that’s the intent of the attempts at tiered pricing for high-bandwidth connections and usage. It seems executives want to crank up the MONEY machine, to squeeze a few more nickels & dimes here and there, wherever they can, from the masses.

Another news item: Freedom to Connect says A “movement” is defined

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Internet is changing our country by changing how we interact with our media and government, said speakers here at the Freedom To Connect conference on Tuesday.

“We’re talking about more than technology and politics here,” said Timothy Karr, campaign director for Free Press. “We’re talking about a movement.” Read more…

Now we begin to understand why some corporate executives likely want tiered Internet pricing. They wish to slow then stop a mass “movement” of citizens that have been manipulated, probably since the beginnings of the current civilization era, by the few.

While it’s not a news item and, at least at first, appears only tangentially related, I ran across this webpage just yesterday or the day before. It’s the clearest explanation I’ve found regarding one aspect of Net Neutrality and the injection of advertising over others’ copyrighted works. While you’re there and after reading that page, if you like music, then press the website’s “back” button and have a listen!

Going back to the public library metaphor, if charges are made for opening the books, and then additionally, if it were possible, each of the pages you’ve paid to read also include advertising of various kinds, with flashing ‘bells and whistles’ to distract your attention from the underlying content, then you begin to understand where some corporate executives are not only desiring to take this, but are doing so right now. Couple that with what seems an ever increasing advertising-to-content ratio, essentially a moving division line that that will rarely if ever decrease, a well-established phenomenon not only on TV but also on the web, both over the course of years, and the endpoint is clarified: you paying to view advertising, and paying higher amounts to view more of it.

And don’t forget the unwanted spam problem. How much will you have to pay for an unwanted flood of spam that some malicious third-parties who are ‘flying under the radar’ cause? Is your machine infected and unknowingly been turned into a spam bot? Hey, the corporate executives, under a pricing plan based upon bandwidth consumed, could really make out like bandits, as the spammers steal some percentage of your billed bandwidth.

And speaking of billing, how would you know how much bandwidth you’re using? By checking a site the same company creates and provides to you? LOL!

It would seem that free broadband is one rational response to these latest executive moves.


2009.03.28

From Glenn Greenwald:

“. . . the primary hallmark of a deeply broken nation — is the total elimination of the rule of law for the ruling class, with a simultaneous intensification of the law as a weapon against the citizenry.

In a related issue, today democrats.com sent me via email a petition to “Tell Congress to Break Up the Banks”:

Our friends at A New Way Forward have a plan: NATIONALIZE: Insolvent banks that are too big to fail must incur a temporary FDIC intervention – no more blank check taxpayer handouts. REORGANIZE: Current CEOs and board members must be removed and bonuses wiped out. The financial elite must share in the cost of what they have caused. DECENTRALIZE: Banks must be broken up and sold back to the private market with new antitrust rules in place – new banks, managed by new people. Any bank that’s “too big to fail” means that it’s too big for a free market to function.

After giving it some consideration, I thought no. Why, if the banks need to be broken up into little units that are no longer “too big to fail”, and if Nationalization is part of this mechanism, then why should they be “sold back to the private market”?

I’ve often wondered why we all don’t have a free bank account, or clearing services sans account, at the local Federal Reserve branch (because the banks are “private”). If we had accounts at Nationalized branches, there’d likely be little privacy from a snooping government, but what else is new. I’m quite certain that if the government wants information from most any of our bank accounts, it probably only requires a subpoena, if that. Perhaps a letter (another letter link) would suffice. I doubt if it requires a warrant as the Fourth Amendment promises.

If anyone doubts the trouble the banks are in, here’s a reasonably good technical explanation, Money Creation and The Fed.

Waxing sarcastic, the way I figure, a broken nation cannot be expected to keep such trite irrelevancies as a Bill of Rights for citizens. Those are only meant to apply to the moneyed few corporations that have legal departments on staff to handle such contingencies. Yep, it’s just like Greenwald writes: “total elimination of the rule of law for the ruling class, with a simultaneous intensification of the law as a weapon against the citizenry.”


2009.03.25

Via Economists View, a NY Times piece about how the federal agency entrusted to enforce labor laws is failing in that task.

The federal agency charged with enforcing minimum wage, overtime and many other labor laws is failing in that role, leaving millions of workers vulnerable… In a report scheduled to be released Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office found that … the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, had mishandled 9 of the 10 cases brought by a team of undercover agents posing as aggrieved workers.

First off, and based upon my news reading experience, this kind of stupidity has been reported for at least 40+ years.

Some people, myself included, think that minimum wage itself is “wage thievery”. In many areas, such as Southern California, minimum wage doesn’t come close to a living wage, making a mockery of the 40-hour workweek for compulsory school graduates sans college degrees, which comprise about 75% of the population. So we see poorer folks working several part time jobs without benefits, sometimes reportedly working up to 70 hours per week.

Sometimes I think the French people have it right with their national strikes of millions of workers, but these days, any such effort would probably need to be global in its solidarity, simply because the biggest corporations are global.

[edit 2009.03.29] Apparently, in France, high school students belong to unions. No wonder the French people have such a strong labor movement, they’re not just abstractly taught about “unions” and “strikes”, they “learn by doing.” In a way, it makes a mockery of public education in the U.S.


2009.03.24

Public knowledge has a good news item about President Obama.

“President Obama outlined the goals of his new policy:
“To ensure that in this new Administration, we base our public policies on the soundest science; that we appoint scientific advisers based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology; and that we are open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions. That is how we will harness the power of science to achieve our goals — to preserve our environment and protect our national security; to create the jobs of the future, and live longer, healthier lives.

Whenever I read about science and government together, I’m reminded not of my first compulsory-school science class, but my first public-school science class (because it is the government that mandates compulsory grade schooling). I believe it was the 10th or 11th grade, some 35+ years ago, and our science teacher showed us a small but marvelous pyrotechnic display on his desk that burned a shade of purplish-lavender. Most all of us students wanted to know how to do that, but the teacher repeatedly refused to tell us. The lesson of example: science experiments are not meant to be repeatable! Curiously, he had a different rule when it came to dissecting a frog, we were all supposed to do that. Poor little frog, I’m so sorry!

I wonder if they’re teaching compulsory-school students less hypocrisy-in-science these days.


Jerry Brown, Attorney General of California, has made a statement counseling gay marriage backers:

In an unusual Monday night conference call with gay marriage supporters, Attorney General Jerry Brown offered tips to carry their fight forward should Supreme Court justices disappoint them and uphold Proposition 8.

Reading through that item, AG Brown seemed a little disappointed with the aggressiveness of his attorney who argued the case, but I would suggest that aggressiveness is what turns our human lives and happiness as citizens upside-down.

One of the most surprising overviews to me as I read quickly through portions of the California constitution, was it’s explicitness with regards to corporations (I make no claims of understanding all of what I read).

Perhaps in the future, all citizens should merge into ONE corporate entity, sharing all incomes and expenses, then there would be only ONE taxpayer for all who chose to do so! After all, this seems how corporations do business accounting after a “merger” (a word whose similarity to “marriage” seems obvious), the merged corporate entities share their income and expenses with each other, thus reducing tax liabilities of the more profitable divisions, and which helps to financially support the less profitable ones.

Why isn’t this model followed for citizens? Perhaps it’s because we no longer have a government of, by, and for the people. Instead, it’s now of, by, and for the corporations. When it comes to aggressiveness, no single person can match the aggressiveness of an army of corporate lawyers and lobbyists to manipulate our laws to their benefit, and simultaneously citizens’ detriment. There are few limits on the number of corporations that can join in a merger, at least up until certain anti-trust legal mechanisms are triggered, but with humans, it can only be a single man and a single woman, presumably for the sole purpose of creating more little future taxpayers?

At our current global population levels, making more future taxpayers at the same growth rates as the last century would seem far less than ideal.

Perhaps humans have a natural tendency to seek a less aggressive form of life and pursuit of joy. Perhaps aggressiveness is the real enemy of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.


Mar 23, 2009

Wired is reporting the Obama Administration asserts the 4th Amendment doesn’t protect cell-phone tower records.

The Obama administration says the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures does not apply to cell-site information mobile phone carriers retain on their customers.

The EFF is quoted in the article as saying this will give the government the ability to track everyone with a cell phone, and as such is a violation civil liberties. The government counters that cell tower records only give a general idea of location instead of a precise one. I’m sure I’ve read that cell-tower triangulation can be used for precise locational data, but whether triangulation-location information is included in the cell phone records is unknown, so we’d also need to know if it can be derived from such records to evaluate the government’s counter argument.

Thank goodness I don’t have a cell phone. Since this information is apparently not yet constitutionally protected, I’m thinking the cell-phone companies would have to pay me to use one, instead of charging me, to compensate for, or offset, the loss of privacy.


Disabled folks allegedly abused by corporations are in the news.

An article titled “‘Abuse’ Raises Question About Law for Disabled Workers“:

“Last month, FBI agents, social services and health department officials in Iowa converged on a 106-year-old bunkhouse. It’s where dozens of mentally retarded men lived when they were not working for as little as 37 cents per hour gutting turkeys in a processing plant, according to news reports and documents released by state officials.

According to the item, the company allegedly rents a $600 bunkhouse, presumably from the building’s owner, then allegedly charges the disabled residents, who are also company employees, a claimed total of $40,000 per month to live there, which the company deducts from their pay. Wow.


I actually read the following item yesterday, but it’s so well phrased it stuck in my mind. It’s from an article at Salon.com by David Sirota, and talks about “hypocrisy and double standards in America”:

“Last month, the same government that says it “cannot just abrogate” executives’ bonus contracts used its leverage to cancel unions’ wage contracts. As the Wall Street Journal reported, federal loans to G.M. and Chrysler were made contingent on those manufacturers shredding their existing labor pacts and “extract[ing] financial concessions from workers.” In other words, our government asks us to believe that it possesses total authority to adjust contracts at car companies it lends to, and yet has zero power to modify contracts at financial firms it owns. This, even though the latter set of covenants might be easily abolished.

The hypocrisy is obvious. Perhaps according to the folks running AIG, we’re all “fully-functional and disabled” folks now.

One thought on “Spring 2009: The News, my Rants, and Sundry Reading

  1. “When it comes to aggressiveness, no single person can match the aggressiveness of an army of corporate lawyers and lobbyists to manipulate our laws to their benefit, and simultaneously citizens’ detriment.”

    This is so true. In fact I’d go so far as to say that instead of “by and for the people” our government is now by and for the corporation. Perhaps people should be allowed the same marriage rights as the merger rights that corporations have. Or there should only be civil unions, no “marriage” for anyone — if the term “marriage” is owned by the churches rather than the citizenry. No religious doctrine should govern civil law.

    It seems to me sometimes that we live in a theocracy, and that Money is God. Certainly not the people, to live as we love and to be who we most want to be. Our better natures seem too often to be undermined in order for us to better serve the economy, which too often fails to serve us.

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