Vince Gray's election on Tuesday night as mayor of Washington, DC, was met with a curiously nonchalant response among city residents. No one seemed much inclined to celebrate. A city that is famously buttoned-up and all business, all the[...]
Read The Full Article:
One of the issues that spurred our war of choice in Iraq was the false insistence by the criminal Bush administration that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, specifically nuclear weapons. The premise was that he might fly a drone (nutty) or worse give one of his precious nukes to a terrorist group who would then try to smuggle it into the United States.
I am probably dating myself with this, but back when I was a kid one of the things that was almost an article of faith with my friends and I was the prospect of an nuclear war of some kind between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was not a daily worry but it was always there in the back of our heads. It led to a lot of blue sky talking about post apocalyptic survival (and the realization that Michigan had 300 primary targets and no one was likely to survive in the state if the worst happened).
"Originally posted at Squarestate.net"
Luckily the Cold War ended and the chance of world wide nuclear holocaust receded. However that dread is a part of many peoples childhood and still influences their thinking. While there is a much lower chance of a major nuclear war, there seems to be a higher chance of a single city being destroyed by a nuclear weapon.
After 9/11 this fear was stoked and we went out our way to figure out how to detect a nuclear weapon being smuggled into the country in one of the millions of shipping containers that land on our shores every day.
The Department of Homeland Security has spent 4 billion (4,000 million) on an automatic detection system. Which the GAO now says does not work and does not fit the requirements in terms of size for our ports. That?s right, after more than five years the folks at the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office found out that the machine they had designed would not work for the ports.
This is one of those areas where my process improvement background makes me pound my head on the table. Any new product or service has to fit the needs of the consumer. If it does not then it does not matter if the product is the best in the world, no one will want it. This is what happened to the DNDO they did not ask the folks at the ports what they needed, they just went off and started building what they thought would be best.
Personally I think this is a waste of time anyway. If you are a terrorist your ultimate goal might be to get a nuclear weapon to Washington or New York or Los Angels, but if you have to you could create just as devastating an attack by detonating the bomb in a major port, inside the ship before it ever gets on shore. In fact it might be more economically damaging to do so, especially in the Port of LA or Portland where tens of billions of dollars of shipping comes through every year. It would completely shut down world wide shipping as well as doing major damage to the city closest to the port.
Still that dread which many of our policy makers felt as kids is not going to let that scenario deter them. Even with the GAO slapping DHS around it is going forward with development of this program. Now it will actually collaborate with the Customs and Border Protection group (the folks who are in charge of port security and, obviously, customs) to define what is needed and how to deploy it so that it does not disrupt the flow of cargo in the nations ports.
This all leads me to the question, what is it with Republicans and thinking that we have Buck Rogers technology on the shelf just waiting to be deployed? The Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) program spent billions and now we have a missile defense system that sort of works, and are just getting going on the launch phase laser system that was always our best bet. We have seen the so-called ?High Tech Border Fence? fail completely after spending a billion (1,000 million) on test phase technology.
All of these are big Republican ideas that sound great, very cutting edge, but never seem to realize any of the results. I am a technophile; you want to talk about lasers and such I am there all day and all night. The thing is that I know the limits of our current technology and don?t have a whole lot of faith that throwing money at a problem will lead to a break through. Sometimes it just leads to the spending of a lot of money.
Nuclear weapons are scary, so we will continue to spend a lot of money on something that in the end will probably not really help a lot. It will make some folks sleep better at night, but that is probably all it will ever do. As will Airline security if we really want to be safe we should be spending these billions on human intelligence. The best time to stop a terrorist is before the plan is in motion, not at the last possible moment before disaster.
The floor is yours.
It?s nice to see the New York Times catch up with the news we were discussing almost two weeks ago, the U.S. military?s plan to pump $1.2 billion dollars more of weapons, fighters and drones into Yemen, whether Yemen wants it or not.[...]
Read The Full Article:
In 2004, Christine O'Donnell explained to a reporter for the News Journal in Delaware that, "I'm a conservative woman, but many conservative men really are chauvinistic." That's something many women -- especially Sarah Palin's Mama Grizzlies -- might understand. But a closer look at O'Donnell's public record on everything from psychics to freak dancing to Britney to Tolkein's Middle Earth might be enough to make many potential voters run for the hills -- and not just because she's a woman.
The full parade of her out-there views is below.
1. O'Donnell on AIDS.
In 1997, O'Donnell took to C-SPAN to complain that the government was spending too much money combating AIDS. She voiced concerns that a drag queen ball "celebrates the type of lifestyle which leads to the disease." She also objected to calling those with AIDS "victims" and said the disease was a consequence of a certain "lifestyle."
2. O'Donnell on Britney Spears and Madonna.
"I think people like Britney Spears have been irresponsible," O'Donnell said on Fox News shortly after the pop star and Madonna exchanged a kiss during a performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. "Well, I feel sorry for both of them. Madonna is a middle- aged woman who is trying to hold on to her youth. And Brittany is super star who is trying to hold on to her popularity. That's why they're playing games and doing gimmicks," O'Donnell said.
"And you can tell that Britney Spears is struggling with who she is. I think she has a team of agents and managers who are saying, yes, push the envelope, kiss Madonna, take off all your clothes. And she's doing that because she doesn't want to sacrifice this enormous platform that she's built. But at the same time, she is sacrificing herself and you can see that in her eyes when she talks."
Source: Transcript of Fox News' Big Story Weekend Edition on Nov. 15, 2003.
3. O'Donnell on masturbation.
"If he already knows what pleases him and he can please himself, than why am I in the picture?"
4. O'Donnell on feminism.
Asked if she considered herself a feminist, O'Donnell said: "Absolutely, but let me qualify that -- I consider myself an authentic feminist. Not as defined by the modern movement. And, let me clarify that a little bit more. I was an English major, so break it down: -ist means one who celebrates. As a feminist, I celebrate my femininity."
5. O'Donnell on psychics.
"Psychics exploit the human beings natural desire that longs for something hire," O'Donnell said on Bill Maher's program in October 2001. "The same way a pimp exploits the natural desire to be with the opposite sex...psychics put people in spiritual harm, the same way pimps put people in physical harm."
6. O'Donnell on nude sunbathing.
"I mean, it is very difficult, I'm sure, for a man to sit there and stare at his girlfriend naked and not want to go a little bit further."
Source: Transcript of Aug. 23, 2000 Fox News segment "Should Sunbathing in Buff be Banned Altogether?"
7. O'Donnell on freak dancing.
"This is a matter of culpability. What freak dancing is isn't just like the safety of mosh pitting," O'Donnell said. "This is sexually explicit activity for minors. We do limit the expression of minors. There are drinking laws. There are -- you know, you have to be 18 to smoke. You can't go to school in a bikini. On one hand, you have people saying this is squelching their freedom, and then you scratch your head and say look over here, date rape is such an epidemic. There's a connection, and, if people realize that there's a connection, then they'll realize that these limitations and restrictions exist for a very valid reason."
Source: transcript of May 15, 2003 "Back of the Book Interview" on Fox News' O'Reilly Factor.
8. O'Donnell on Obama.
"He's soooo liberal. He's anti-American," said O'Donnell. "He's beating the 'change' drum. But let's look at the change. He did not vote for English as the official language. What does that say?"
9. O'Donnell on the Gay Pride Parade.
"Well, I know that the one here in Los Angeles, there was S&M going on. There was mocking sodomy, mocking, you know, all kinds of crude sexual acts," O'Donnell said. "Because -- because authorities were too afraid to be called, quote, unquote, 'homophobic' because these homosexual special rights groups do get away with [anything]."
Source: Fox News June 26, 2000 segment "Was Gay Pride Parade in New York City Over the Top?"
10. O'Donnell on Middle Earth.
"You see Tolkien's wisdom applied to just about everything: Tolkien and communism, Tolkien and industrialization," O'Donnell said, speaking of the authors "Lord of the Rings" series in December 2003. "In researching this topic I even found a book on Tolkien and sexual fetishes."
O'Donnell said it was "surprising, then, especially in today's very hyper-sensitive, post-Gloria Steinem world, that there's such a lack of commentary on Tolkien and women. ... Is it that people assume that women don't have an interest in Tolkien?" she asked.
The now-GOP candidate dismissed the request that Tolkien should have written more about the females in the book, saying that the books "were written from a hobbit's perspective" and that if the film changed what was in the books it would "severely take away from the film's legitimacy."
The new Republican candidate for Senate in Delaware is known most widely for her positions on sex: She is a devout Catholic, chaste, anti-masturbation, pro-abstinence-only sex ed, anti-condoms and anti-porn.
But Christine O'Donnell didn't grow up in a strict religious household. For her, the turning point came in college.
While at Fairleigh Dickinson University, she told the Delaware News Journal in April 2004, she did things she now regrets. As the News Journal put it, those things were "drinking too much and having sex with guys with whom there wasn't a strong emotional connection."
She was a junior, she said in another profile published in 2006, when a friend "asked me if I knew how an abortion was performed ... She showed me the medical journals, and it was frightening."
"There's only truth and not truth," she said. "You're either very good or evil. I went back to my dorm and asked myself what I was."
O'Donnell decided then to drop her acting ambitions (she was a theater major). She became an evangelical Christian, a departure from her relatively lax Catholic upbringing. She joined the College Republicans and campaigned for the Bush-Quayle ticket.
That was the beginning of O'Donnell as crusader. Her biggest crusade has become preaching abstinence until marriage to young women.
"Not only because I think I'm right," she said in 2004. "I know what it's like to live a life without principle."
But although she believes in no sex before marriage, she has also said time and again that what she strives for is not abstinence, not virginity, but chastity.
"I don't encourage anyone to seek 'abstinence.' I cringe at terms like 'secondary virginity' or 'recycled virgin.' One of my goals is to get the body of Christ to stop proclaiming these words. I would rejoice if I never heard 'abstinence' from a pulpit again," O'Donnell wrote in Cultural Dissident in 1998. "As Christians, virginity is not even our goal. Purity and holiness are our calling in Christ."
Making virginity the goal, she wrote, "seems to classify certain people as second-rate Christians."
She received her calling, she told the Washington Times in 1997, at a women's conference at Harvard in 1995. There, she was speaking at a panel on abortion with a rep from Planned Parenthood. As she spoke of abstinence, she was booed. Then she realized, she said, that the women in the audience weren't angry, they were hurt. "I just want to let you know that I know that hurt. I didn't always think this way and I've been where you guys are," she recalled saying.
"That was where it started," she said. "I just cried out to God to use me to touch that generation."
That was the seed for an organization O'Donnell would found in order to preach chastity. She named it Savior's Alliance for Lifting the Truth, or SALT. She spoke at high schools and colleges, and went to concerts to hand out literature claiming condoms are ineffective.
It was not the only time she communicated with God. In May of 2006, according to the News Journal, O'Donnell was approached by anti-abortion activists who asked her to run for Senate.
"Originally I said no," she said. "I never wanted to run for office. I was an outspoken advocate, and if you run you have to water it down. But as someone who prays about every decision I make, I felt like God was leading me in the other direction."
"During the primary, I heard the audible voice of God," she said. "He said, 'Credibility.' It wasn't a thought in my head. I thought it meant I was going to win. But after the primary, I got credibility."
She ran, lost the primary to Jan Ting and ran as a write-in candidate. She lost again.
While she was president of SALT, O'Donnell read Pope John Paul II's "On the Dignity and Vocation of Women," and converted back to Catholicism. The treatise envisioned gender roles as equal, but different.
"Sex is a covenant between a man and a woman and God," she said in 2006. "Your job is to satisfy the other, the giving of oneself to another. Porn turns that around."
From the same News Journal piece:
She practices what she preaches, she says. She's had boyfriends, but they don't last long when they realize her seriousness concerning chastity before marriage.
The New York Review of Books for 9-30-10 has an interesting article by Ian Johnson, former Beijing bureau chief for the WSJ, reviewing Richard McGregor's THE PARTY: THE SECRET WORLD OF CHINA'S COMMUNIST RULERS. I don't know how secret it can be if there is a whole book about it.
There are some interesting facts revealed in this review that readers of our sites will find useful. We are told that the CPC is basically the heart and soul of contemporary China and that the views of some, that the party is becoming irrelevant, are dead wrong. Johnson informs us that while many polices of the party are not actually "communist" it is still "Leninist in structure" and its organization and workings "would be recognizable to the leaders of the Russian Revolution." Coming from a WSJ reporter I don't know if this a compliment or not. McGregor's book also shows that despite its "secretive tendencies" the CP "can be usefully analyzed." Maybe the secret world is not really so secret after all.
Johnson says one big misunderstanding about China, and it is a BIG one, is that China "has been privatizing the economy." There is a stock market to be sure and many shares have been sold to investors around the world but "almost all Chinese companies of any size and importance remain in government hands." This is a socialist sine qua non I would think.
This fact is relatively unknown to outside investors due to "ignorant or unethical Western investment banks and lawyers." It seems that ultimate decision making in all really important Chinese companies is made by the Organization Department of the CPC and the NOT the board of directors of the company-- i.e., the party remains "in control of all personnel decisions." CEOs and directors thus dance to the tune of the party.
What about smaller companies, those not belonging to the commanding heights of the economy? Here too "government control still remains pervasive" if less direct. What Johnson means is that "the manager is often a former official or close to Party circles." Johnson is wrong to call this "government control" since even he admits "that these companies are run as the manager sees fit." What he really means is that there is a climate of shared values and aspirations between middle management and the party.
The party also has control of the government as the party, through the medium of "leading small groups" of experts and senior party leaders that have been set up to advise each of the ministries. These groups exist from the top "down to the grass roots." Westerners object to this system, especially in the legal system because judges are not independent and merely "translate court decisions made by Communist Party legal affairs committees into rulings." This objection is based on the Western notion that the only free and democratic organization of government has to be based on bourgeois notions of democracy and any other notions of democracy, especially socialist or people's democracy is bogus. This overlooks the fact that most bourgeois democracies are themselves bogus.
While many Western "experts" on China write off the CPC in the long term, Johnson shares the view that "the West has consistently underestimated the Party's ability to adapt and thus might be excessively negative about its future."
Johnson has some criticisms of his own but they seem to be motivated by his WSJ background. He thinks China needs more reform efforts and while he says "reforms haven't quite ground to a halt" nevertheless the state sector is making a comeback because the CPC has a policy "of recentralizing control." But this is what you would expect a socialist state to do.
He also faults Chinese foreign policy for being concerned with only two "narrow concerns." The first is territorial (Tibet and Taiwan) and the second is "resource extraction in Africa and Central America." Well the first is a concern with the territorial integrity of the country, which is actually being threatened, and is hardly a "narrow concern." Nor is the second, which deals with China's relation to the Third World and its trade policies. By all accounts most African and Central American countries have had better and fairer deals with the Chinese than with the West. Johnson doesn't even mention the CPC's push to increase the unionization of its workforce, which is in complete harmony with socialist principles.
All in all this is an interesting article which should be read by anyone interested in contemporary China and certainly by anyone contemplating buying and reading Richard McGregor's THE PARTY.
Read The Full Article:
Here's a little light reading that will give you a good laugh -- which, of course, you'll need if you're going to allow the thought of President Rick Santorum into your brain. Just remember, though: Every time you click the link, you make the Baby Jesus cry:
Rick Santorum would very much like to be president. For the past few years, he has been diligently appearing at the sorts of conservative events?the Values Voters Summit, the Conservative Political Action Conference?where aspiring Republican candidates are expected to show up. But before he starts printing "Santorum 2012" bumper stickers, there's one issue the former GOP senator and his strategists need to address. You see, Santorum has what you might call a Google problem. For voters who decide to look him up online, one of the top three search results is usually the site SpreadingSantorum.com, which explains that Santorum's last name is a sexual neologism for "the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex."
Santorum's problem got its start back in 2003, when the then-senator from Pennsylvania compared homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia, saying the "definition of marriage" has never included "man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be." The ensuing controversy prompted syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage, who's gay, to start a contest, soliciting reader suggestions for slang terms to "memorialize the scandal." The winner came up with the "frothy mixture" idea, Savage launched a website, and a meme was born. Even though mainstream news outlets would never link to it, Savage's site rose in the Google rankings, thanks in part to bloggers who posted Santorum-related news on the site or linked to it from their blogs. Eventually it eclipsed Santorum's own campaign site in search results; some observers even suggested it may have contributed to Santorum's crushing 18-point defeat in his 2006 campaign against Bob Casey.
Savage says his site hasn't been updated for years, yet it remains entrenched in the Google rankings. Not even Santorum's ascent as a Fox News contributor or his early campaign swings through the key primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire have managed to bury it. With Google results like this, what's an aspiring presidential candidate to do?
I wanted to ask Santorum whether he had a strategy for scrubbing his Web presence, but he didn't return my calls. So instead, I asked a few experts. "This is an unusual problem," says Michael Fertik, CEO of ReputationDefender, which specializes in helping individuals maintain a positive Web presence. "It's devastating. This is one of the more creative and salient Google issues I've ever seen."
How can America hold its head up? That 46-pound toupee inelegantly perched on its crown must make it hard.
What the hell am I talking about? This past Sunday, Frank Rich tossed out a line in his New York Times column that gave me pause. He noted that “the top 1 percent of American earners now take home nearly a quarter of Americans? total income ? perhaps the single most revealing indicator of how three decades of greed and free-market absolutism have eviscerated America?s fundamental ideals of fairness.” The sentence was linked to the first part of a series by Timothy Noah in Slate on the Great Divergence, a term coined to describe the post-1979 period of broadening income inequality in America. Noah cites research from 2007 indicating that “the richest 1 percent account for 24 percent of the nation’s income.” Over the last century, income inequality has ebbed and flowed:
It dropped a bit in the late teens, then started climbing again in the 1920s, reaching its peak just before the 1929 crash. The trend then reversed itself. Incomes started to become more equal in the 1930s and then became dramatically more equal in the 1940s. Income distribution remained roughly stable through the postwar economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s. Economic historians Claudia Goldin and Robert Margo have termed this midcentury era the “Great Compression.” The deep nostalgia for that period felt by the World War II generation?the era of Life magazine and the bowling league?reflects something more than mere sentimentality. Assuming you were white, not of draft age, and Christian, there probably was no better time to belong to America’s middle class. The Great Compression ended in the 1970s. Wages stagnated, inflation raged, and by the decade’s end, income inequality had started to rise. Income inequality grew through the 1980s, slackened briefly at the end of the 1990s, and then resumed with a vengeance in the aughts.
Vengeance, indeed. During the Great Divergence, specifically “from 1980 to 2005, more than 80 percent of total increase in Americans’ income went to the top 1 percent.” Now, according to statistics compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency, “income distribution in the United States is more unequal than in Guyana, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and roughly on par with Uruguay, Argentina, and Ecuador. Income inequality is actually declining in Latin America even as it continues to increase in the United States. Economically speaking, the richest nation on earth is starting to resemble a banana republic.” Despite this trend, the issue of income inequality has “barely entered the national political debate.” Yet it is “a topic of huge importance to American society” and has become a cause for worry among many economists and political scientists. “Even Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve Board chairman and onetime Ayn Rand acolyte, has registered concern. ‘This is not the type of thing which a democratic society?a capitalist democratic society?can really accept without addressing,’ Greenspan said in 2005.”
So how can America permit such gross inequality and hold its head up? How can a democratic nation stand tall with the equivalent of a 46-pound toupee upon its pate? (If an average adult male in the US weighs 191 pounds and 24 percent of that weight is concentrated at the very top, that would make for a 45.84 pound hairpiece.) We are dangerously top heavy. If the country were an SUV (and our fondness for the gas-guzzling behemoths makes that an apt analogy), we would be at risk for a rollover. How long before we topple? How long before the chasm between the top one percent and everyone else in America swallows us whole? What are we doing?
Also: WSJ Journalistic Fraud Exposed As "Blaming Picky Workers For High Unemployment Meme" Is[...]
Read The Full Article:
A price war is breaking out in the exchange traded fund (ETF) industry. While it’s not good news for everyone — ETF sponsors, for instance — investors can now get more for their money than ever before! And that makes you the winner of this war.I talk a lot about the many advantages of ETFs. Very little in this world comes for free, though, and that includes ETFs. The people who design, create, operate and distribute these instruments don’t work for free. Nor should they. But consumers always want value for what they spend, and rightly so.Today I’m going to tell you a few things about the costs of… . . . → Full Story: You?re the Winner in the ETF Price War
Read The Full Article: