Thursday, March 20, 2008

White House Smears Nobel Economist

clipped from

White House Smears Nobel Economist: ‘Lacks Courage’ For Ignoring ‘Cost Of Failure’ In Iraq

stiglitz333.gifIn a new book titled The Three Trillion Dollar War, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes argue that President Bush massively understated the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Combined with interest on debt, future borrowing, cost of continued military presence, and veterans health care, they estimate a potential cost of up to $5 to $7 trillion.


Unwilling to accept what Stiglitz calls a “very conservative” $3 trillion projection, the White House is smearing Stiglitz — President Clinton’s top economic adviser — saying he “lacks courage“:

In recent interviews, Stiglitz said Bush’s war accounting practices “are so shoddy that they would land any public firm before the Securities and Exchange Commission for engaging in deceptive practices.” “We had to use the Freedom of Information Act to uncover things that we never would have known,” he said.

 blog it
Before someone chides me or anyone about "the cost of failure," I'd like to see honest numbers on, first, "the price of success," and an achievable definition of "victory."

Otherwise, I shall be cynical and presume that "the cost of failure" is likely to involve wholesale prosecutions, widespread asset forfeiture (hey, they set the precedent!) and extraordinary renditions to The Hague.

Wm. Rivers Pitt asks "Why?"

clipped from
    Vice President Dick Cheney is, by far and away, the most powerful man in the
present administration.
"Cheney's muscular views on presidential power,
then and now, offer one answer to the question raised often by former colleagues
in recent years: What happened to the careful, mainstream conservative they
once thought they understood?"
 What happened? Opportunity happened, at long last, George W. Bush and 9/11
and a manufactured state of permanent war happened.
war in Iraq presented Dick Cheney with the means to fulfill his decades-old
ambition: to invest the Executive branch with unprecedented and unlimited power,
to settle a few festering scores with that nettlesome Legislature, and to cash
in on the spoils of supremacy by rerouting every available dollar out of the
Treasury and into tax-sheltered coffers of like-minded comrades in the oil and
warfare industries,
 blog it
I don't do anniversaries. It requires keeping track of things, and I don't do that very well. Needless to say, I was unprepared for this momentous occasion, five years into a war that was more theater than national security exercise from the first.

Pitt reduces the issues to the essentials in a way that most people who have retained their sanity throughout these five years of wretchedly corrupt, irresponsible and incompetent leadership can understand.

At this point, even the serious disagreements boil down to issues of motivation. But motivation for acts of felonious carnage, constitutional usurpation and the willful perversion of the arms of justice and national security into services dedicated to the preservation of a unitary executive by "whatever means" matters little.

The acts themselves and their consequences insist on resolution in favor of those oppressed, displaced, killed, maimed and exploited - and serve to utterly discredit any motive and any cheerleader for Bush.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Autistic Agenda in Second Life

The Autistic Agenda in Second Life
Autistics and Aspies stake out their turf in Second Life. Resources, meeting places, cultural and educatonal areas - and a plan to take over the world! Ok, just Porcupine. For now.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Green Tech: Web conferencing leverages small business.

Oh, I love it when a paid post comes along that actually serves to prove a point I've been trying to make about society, culture and business. You see, if someone is investing serious money into making easier ways to do, say web conferencing, it nicely validates my larger points about the immense (and progressive) changes the web brings. Nothing validates an idea better than a line of people paying for an implementation.

Over the last two or three decades ... simple tools have expanded the ability for individuals of no particular means to build their own enterprises - everything from dotcoms to fast food chains to publishing empires. The actual cost of doing business has plummeted...
This trend, along with parallel trends in web 2.0 apps and emerging technologies like the possibility of a 3D web overlay, as 2nd Life is essentially beta-testing hold enormous possibilities for business. But that's "business" with a small b. Large corporations may find themselves in dire competition with a multitude of medium to small businesses who have learned that they no longer need corporate infrastructure to achieve what only a DuPont or Ford could a hundred or even 50 years ago.

With that in mind, take a peek at the sponsor's link and as you consider the offer itself, also consider what the availability of the offer implies - and the implications of what you could do yourself given that sort of individual "reach," without adding to your carbon footprint much at all.

Let's elect some sane people. If they happen to be gay, I can live with that.

Republicans "come out of the closet" as hate-mongers when they think nobody is listening.

Clearly, she should have patted down everyone to see if they were wired. Well, while there may not have been a "gay agenda" before so called representatives started their hate and fear campaigns, there is one now - and it involves un-electing intolerant bigots.

I'll rase a soy latte to that idea. I"ve found folks that spend a lot of time hating one identifiable group probably hate me in their spare time. I think it's just a good idea to be rid of them before I climb any higher on their priority list.

Clearly there is a God in Heaven - Because the Athiests Won

You know, I cannot think of a clearer example of the deliberate "establishment of religion" than the clear and obvious attempt to make public compliance with and participation in a Christian prayer a pre-condition of participation in school, school activities, or indeed, within the social matrix of the town itself, a small pimple on the panhandle of Oklahoma.

The behavior you clearly see in the video is of course, unconstitutional, prima facia, and I delight that the matter was taken to court - and on even better grounds than this rather old video clearly shows.

The Smalkowski case attracted national attention after Nicole Smalkowski was kicked off of the girls' basketball team after refusing to stand in a circle with her teammates on the gymnasium floor of the Hardesty public High School and recite the "Lord's Prayer." After school officials learned that she and her family were Atheists, lies were created about her as grounds to take her off of the team.

When her father Chuck discovered conclusively that public school and law enforcement officials had lied to him about his 15 year old daughter, he and Nicole and her mother Nadia went to the home of principal Lloyd Buckley to attempt to discuss the matter with him. Outside of his front fence, the principal struck Chuck, who blocked the blow. Both men fell to the ground and Buckley sustained minor injuries, the provable origins of which were strikingly contrary to his under oath trial testimony. Buckley then took out misdemeanor criminal assault charges against Chuck. After Smalkowski rejected the offer to drop the charges if he and his Atheist family left the state, the charges were raised to a felony. Chuck called American Atheists for help.

Chuck won his day in court - despite the room being packed by people literally praying for his conviction. I presume this is one case where the answer is "What part of 'I am a God of Justice' escaped you all these years?"

The school district will lose and I say that with the unstated but sincere underline - "if there is a God in heaven."

There is a specific reason I say that. And it is a reason that is absolutely critical to persons of all faiths - but most especially to Christians, inasmuch as these points were raised, exemplified and made to be conditions of faith by the example and words of Jesus. In other words, if you think as a Christian paster that what you see here is an example of what "good Christian kids do" than you are are in contention with the words in red and unqualified to lead a Christian church of ANY denomination.

You see, Christians may well dispute the positive meaning or the exact expression of those words in a positive sense - but when one is cheer-leading exactly the sort of thing that sent Jesus himself off on a snorting tirade of righteous indignation - that would be outside the bounds of sectarian variation, or even schism.

Indeed, in Christian theological definition that goes back to the earliest days of the church, one teaching in direct disputation of the direct words of Christ would be...

Oh, I'm sure you know this one. It's on the lips of every odious little thumper out there.

Yep. That's it: "ANTIChrist."

Now I state this, with absolute confidence that I can support it biblically, in depth - but all I really need to do is to point you to a decent concordance and council you to study the concepts of hospitality and to read what Jesus had to say about practitioners of public piety, such as the Pharisees.

But having said that, I'm going to further state that there is a much greater point at issue having nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not whether honest observers should quotes around the word Christian when referring to you.

The point is this - if you have to establish your religion by force and maintain it by indoctrination and immersion, if it cannot sustain itself in the face of one little teen-aged atheist who respects both her moral position and your own enough to not commit an act of dishonest piety for your town's comfort - you don't have a faith. Or rather more to the point, you clearly have no faith in your faith.

So, that would be a Vente Grande of What's the Point with whipped nonsense and bullshit, wouldn't it?

And since it is all that, and you are indeed using force to sustain it against utter collapse in the name of preserving social order and of course the social rank of it's most visibly pious practitioners, it really wouldn't actually be wrong for another church to come to town with a dutiful and militant congregation and practice exactly as you preach?

Would it?

Be careful how you argue against that, for that's pretty much exactly what has happened in many churches, due to leadership from various "Christian" organizations - the takeover of entire parishes by outsiders; takeovers that amount to theft on the order of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Now, an honest person and a good Christian wouldn't want to be seen arguing in favor of theft or covetous behavior. Those things are generally considered to be, what's the word again?

Oh, yes. Sins.

If practiced by the smugly unrepentant, it's rather conventional theology to assume that would be pretty much "go to hell, go directly to hell; do not pass through Purgatory."

But again, compelling as that argument is for both it's instructive and entertainment values, it does not stand particularly well in the public square. Especially when this is not a question of what Christian doctrine one may believe to be superior, or convenient or publicly acceptable, but a far more fundamental one; one critical, as I said, to all our freedoms; the right to hold opinions that many may disagree with.

Including the opinion that there is no god, and your religion is a crock.

I happen to agree with the young lady on the latter point, and tend to assume on the first that whatever God there may be (and I happen to believe there is Someone,) you wouldn't recognize Them if they set your personal bush burning - even though that would be entirely within the realm of the sense of humor associated with the Divine.

Look up "emroods."

But nonetheless, no matter how little regard I hold for the evident quality of your faith, o Citizens of Hardesty, you have the right to it. So long as and only to the extent that you do not use tactics like this to enforce and defend it.

Speaking purely for myself, though, and based on my understanding of ethics and of the Ten Commandments, if I were a Fundamentalist Christian, I would find the fact that Hardesty, Oklahoma has apparently not yet evaporated under a hail of fire and brimstone to be a challenge to my faith.

Fortunately, I am not, and I do not bother my God with such stray thoughts. Though, in all honesty - I must say that it would be far beyond my capacity for charity or tolerance to show much compassion at all should any disaster happen - and as I am an experienced believer in Karma, I 'spect it will. And as tempting as the idea of being able to own such a spread as the Smalkowski's did; I consider living downwind of that much bad juju to be unwise.

Presumed Profitable - Private Justice a Public Scandal.

Viewing with alarm - ten years behind the curve.

America Behind Bars: Why Attempts at Prison Reform Keep Failing

By Liliana Segura, AlterNet. Posted March 5, 2008.

In its 2005 annual report, the Corrections Corporation of America laid out what's at stake for a prison industry facing reform:

Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new correctional and detention facilities ... The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws.
... Legislation has been proposed in numerous jurisdictions that could lower minimum sentences for some nonviolent crimes and make more inmates eligible for early release ... Also, sentencing alternatives under consideration could put some offenders on probation with electronic monitors who would otherwise be incarcerated. Similarly, reductions in crime rates could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities.

The reforms described by the rather alarmed-sounding CCA mirror those that Pew and other advocates herald as a way to curb the growing prison crisis -- and it appears that lawmakers are finally willing to hear them. "What we're seeing is state leaders around the country starting to call time out," said Pew researcher Susan K. Urahn during the Post's online chat. "We are seeing activity in several states where legislators from both parties are saying, 'We aren't getting our money's worth out of prisons.'" So, for example, "for the same amount of money, you could keep one inmate behind bars for an additional year, or you could provide treatment and intensive supervision for several others -- and cut the recidivism rate considerably." But who will provide treatment -- and how about those electric monitors? Like prison construction itself, prison "reform" will largely amount to trading in one set of services for another.

There's more...

Others continue to defend the sweeping policies that got us here in the first place. "The fact that we have a large prison population by itself is not a central problem because it has contributed to the extraordinary increase in public safety we have had in this country," conservative sociologist James Q. Wilson told the Washington Post. Hardly unbiased criticism, given that Wilson was one of the intellectual engines behind the "broken windows" theory that helped get us into this mess. (And tell that to black or Latino families who experience the criminal justice system's harshest excesses -- from children growing up without their parents to parents paying crippling phone fees to reach their children. Or tell that to now-elderly prisoners living out their final days behind bars, whose threat to society is negligible and whose failing health makes them highly vulnerable -- and hugely expensive to care for.)

I often refer to the Republican theory of public policy as "The Bigger Hammer Approach." That is to say, if a problem exists, apply force until the problem is many thousands of finely distributed problems that must be dealt with by local authority or, of course provide an opportunity for "private enterprise."

Occasionally that may work, though I'll be damned if I can think of an example, but not when the problem is inherently toxic.

This approach, conflated with Regan Republican's mindless adoration of privatizing anything that isn't nailed down, and certainly anything that can be unbolted and shifted with a crane leads us to absurd situations, wherein reducing recidivism is the last thing on a prison administrator's mind.

We have to remember that while crime is harmful to individuals, it is also harmful to society as a whole. The peace and well-being of society is a Commons, one that it is, inarguably, the most fundamental duty of government to preserve - even at the expense of ideological purity.

We currently find ourselves with far too many people in jail, to the extent that it is symptomatic of a society at war with it's own people, rather than of any particular culture of meaningful lawlessness. The statistics speak for themselves; the overwhelming majority of persons in prison are there for non-violent drug offenses, often for life without parole.

On the other hand, kill someone and you might find yourself out on parole in as little as six years.
Especially if you happen to be white. Did I mention that the majority of persons in prison for all offenses are black or otherwise Non-White?

Well, such blatant contempt for the Equal Justice clause causes widespread disrespect for the law itself; it creates a situation where a large portion of the American people feel that the government is, in fact, at war with them. And with the rhetoric of The War on Drugs and the War on Crime, it's difficult to say "don't take it personally, it's just politics."

It is intensely personal and it's a particularly cynical and corrupt sort of political exploitation of people and their tolerance.

We have left the courts far to little discretion in sentencing and diversion, we treat drug addiction like a crime (and assume that everyone who uses opiates is a criminal unless they are writhing in agony at the moment of accusation ) and we are, bizarrely enough, willing to incarcerate someone for life at thirty grand per year, per bed, rather than five grand per bed per year for drug treatment. Even if they NEVER get clean and sober, even if they never leave, it's still a better deal for the taxpayers.

And you see, here's the thing people don't seem to understand: if I pay taxes to fund an institution, it's not entirely a private institution, is it? Indeed, it's doing what a public institution would. Perhaps it's cheaper, but unless Joe Taxpayer can look at the books, we don't know how they manage that, and we do know that the results are contrary to promise.

There's another point as well. Whether or not a fee for service goes to a government or private agency, if it's effectively mandatory, in order to do personal or public business, it is a tax. And as taxpayers, we have the right to expect a reasonable return on investment. When 1 in a hundred citizens are in jail - well, that's a huge blow, in lost earnings, in lost revenue and in human life. It's appalling. And appallingly stupid.

I think it no coincidice that it's a plan much loved by socially conservatives, who are willing to pay any price ( while, of course, not touching personal capital ) to ensure that their lifestyle and their comforts and their secure enclaves remain unbesmirched by productive citizens of middle to lower classes and, of course, of dusky hues and questionable politics.

But such arrogance and misrule on behalf of very few at the expense of the great majority and at the expense of the ruin of ten percent of the entire population causes anyone who cannot casually afford a cigarette boat out of pocket change to contemplate a brutal political calculus.

The wealthy argue that no progress would be possible without concentrations of capital - and indeed, that's an arguemnt with great and obvious merit. But the same concentrations of capital may be used as brutal weapons against progress. And for every Burt Rutan, for every Richard Branson, for every Dyson and Dean Kamen, there is at least one Peter Coors or Paris Hilton.

Capital concentrations are only one aspect of progress, and the web has proven it possible via the Dean and Paul Campaigns and in many other ways, to get individuals to pool small sums and make large, targeted impacts. It's also possible for the web to serve the same infrastructural and organizing purpose as large companies, governments and foundations, with greater efficiency, transparently and security.

The thing to remember here is that - and I pause at this leftist-sounding rhetoric, but it's obviously true in this case - the rich are indeed exploiting the working classes in order to create wealth. Which, historically, is ok, as long as it's done with some sense of reciprocity.

But it's clear they feel their grip slipping. Over the last two or three decades, even as the worship of wealth and greed and the lifestyles of the rich and famous has become an industry in itself, simple tools have expanded the ability for individuals of no particular means to build their own enterprises - everything from dotcoms to fast food chains to publishing empires. The actual cost of doing business has plummeted - and by the by, that's true both for "legitimate" and "criminal" enterprises alike.

It would behoove us, then, to concentrate on realigning our idea of "legitimate" and "criminal" with basic moral, constitutional and libertarian ideas of "right and wrong," the ones that relate to actual harm done to actual persons.

Or in other words, it's utterly bizarre that trafficking in pot is illegal when trafficking in oxycontin is not, if you have a patent or a license. Furthermore, even if pot WERE legal, it would be absurd to expect congress to create a protected market with price supports, so that medical marijuana users had to pay a premium for something they could grow in their back yard.

There are clear and obvious ethical problems with our drug and crime policies, and the thing about ethical problems is that "whatcha gonna do about it" is not a viable approach to dealing with it. Certainly, government has the power to enact laws, and people to enforce them - but in order to achieve any meaningful end that seems just to the majority of the citizenry, laws must have ethical intents and outcomes and they must be respected by the citizenry as being useful as well as well-intentioned.

Otherwise, the law will be recognized only in the breech, and if respected to any extent, via lip service at parole hearings.

And that, I would submit to you, is the present case - and a case that exactly to the taste of the prison industry.

Things that make you go Wii™!

Click Here for a Chance to Win a Nintendo® Wii™!

First, the disclaimer; I'm a Charter customer, have been for some years. It's that mainline high-speed connectivity, ya know. Like plugging straight into the metamind. I'm looking forward to the day when I can afford fiberoptic or a T-1 drop...

Anyhoo; it's not so much a conflict of interest as a statement of interest. Because Charter, you see, is running a contest with a parallel auction for Charter Internet Access for Life.

In some ways, that's the interesting part. The bidding started off at ten, and at this writing, was already in excess of $22,000.00. WELL in excess. I'd have to open a spreadsheet to see if I've got enough life left to make a bid worthwhile - considering that I'd have to finance it!

But your mileage may well vary. Indeed, if you have decent credit and are under the age of 35, I'm reasonably sure it does. So take a spin, and make a bid, what the heck. Very likely you will pay less on finance charges than on access. That's 16mbps/sec access, wireless router, the usual firewall, email and server space for your home page.

And remember, you could Win a Nintendo® Wii™! Honestly speaking, that IS what caught my attention, so I figure it may well capture yours.

Standard boilerplate follows:

Click Here for a Chance to Win a Nintendo® Wii™!

That page will allow visitors to register with an e-mail address and other personal information for a chance to win a Nintendo® Wii™. The winner will receive a Nintendo Wii Console, Wii Stand, 5 Sports games ( Boxing, Baseball, Tennis, Golf and bowling), 1 Remote Controller, 1 Nunchuk Controller, 1 Sensor Bar, 1 Wii AC Adapter, 1 Wii AV Cable. You are ready to play, no other equipment needed.

Visitors will also be given the opportunity to bid on receiving Charter High-Speed® Internet for Life. Registration for bidding on the Charter High-Speed® Internet for Life offer will require that the visitor qualify for the offer by zip code – must be in a Charter serviceable area. Only visitors able to receive Charter High-Speed® Internet services at their residence will qualify to bid. Bids start at $10. For complete Auction and Sweepstakes Rules go to:


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