December 15th, 2010

Union Flag

Whatever is this country coming to?

So, rumour has it, the police, rather than deal with the overly excitable criminal influence who infiltrate demonstrations, prefer as usual to pick on the chap with Cerebal Palsey, dragging him from his wheelchair in the process (I'd suggest maybe trying to incite a riot of decent people, rather than head off the real troublemakers)

In the same week we see incompetance of firearms officers, "leaving" their weapon (and explosives) on top of a vehicle then losing it when he drove off, meanwhile courts are closing, police and councils are to take a 5% funding drop and any funding drop to the NHS will be blamed on the GP's who will soon be handed the books and told to deal with spending themselves.

On top of all this, VAT is due to rise by 2.5 pence in the pound which will give retailers carte blanche to raise prices 10-20% thanks to their knowledge most Brits can't count for toffee!

I question if law and order is really desirable to those who tend to be driven round in bomb proof vehicles, pretending to have concern for the minions by turning up to open hospitals they know fine well will struggle financially before very long!

Are these tax rises and service cuts in reality just to see how much they can squeeze the poor once more, or is there really someone in power that can do the math? I doubt the latter as no matter how much the deficit gets paid off, we'll never ever remain "In the black", so we're being treated like Mushrooms again right?
Si se puede

Fundie perspective on Ben Franklin

This article on proposed California state legislation to promote LGBT studies in school demonstrates an interesting aspect of Fundamentalist perspectives on the history of science. The article quotes Candi Cushman of Focus on the Fetus as claiming that Ben Franklin discovered electricity. I've read some other fundie stuff about the gray beards of Franklin's era that contain similar inaccuracies. Cushman fails to see the way that pointing out a famous person's sexual orientation might benefit youth who would otherwise feel put upon by all of the vicious homophobia they encounter in life.

There is something quite ironic in flat-earthers waving founding padres around as if they were on the side of fear and ignorance. Sarah Palin even goes so far as to include a quote from Thomas Paine on the dedication page of her recent book. She seems clueless that the Sarah Palins of Paine's time vilified him for his intelligence and insight.
Godzilla, default

(no subject)

I'm hoping that this:

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea warned Monday that U.S.-South Korean cooperation could bring a nuclear war to the region, as the South began artillery drills amid lingering tension nearly three weeks after the North's deadly shelling of a South Korean island.

The South's naval live-fire drills are scheduled to run Monday through Friday at 27 sites. The regularly scheduled exercises are getting special attention following a North Korean artillery attack on front-line Yeonpyeong Island that killed two South Korean marines and two civilians.

The Nov. 23 artillery barrage, the North's first assault to target a civilian area since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, began after the North said South Korea first fired artillery toward its territorial waters. South Korea says it fired shells southward, not toward North Korea, as part of routine exercises.

is just posturing. If a war, period, breaks out on the peninsula Seoul will be destroyed and then there'll be no "maybe" on the prospect of a global Double-Dip. And if war breaks out in a week or two the casualties over a decade of war in both Iraq and Afghanistan will be equalled, full-stop. North Korea is not Iraq, it's not going to fold if such a war should begin immediately. While this war has never technically ended by international legal standards, North Korea's actions as of late have been a lot more paranoid and thuggish than usual. My opinion remains that it's to solidify Lil' Kim as the next ruler. Your thoughts?


Senate Democrats make moves to reform filibuster and fireworks are sure to ensue.

Senate Democrats will make a dramatic effort to reform the rules of the chamber when the next Congress begins, one of the body's primary filibuster-reform advocates said Wednesday morning. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who has championed a weakening of the procedural mechanism that allows the minority party to hold up legislation, predicted "fireworks" on Jan. 5, 2011 -- the day on which the Senate can, he argued, revamp its rules by a simple majority vote. "There could be some fireworks. There could be some fireworks on January fifth," Harkin said at a pro-reform event sponsored by several like-minded organizations. "I'm going to be there. I'm armed. I'm armed with a lot of history, and I know the rules, and I know the procedures too, so we will see what happens on the fifth."

Essentially, that path to reform requires Vice President Joe Biden -- who supports weakening the filibuster -- to rule on the first day of the next session that the Senate has the authority to write its own rules. Republicans, presumably, would immediately move to object, but Democrats could then move to table the objection, setting up a key up-or-down vote. If 50 Democrats voted to table the objection, the Senate would then move to a vote on a new set of rules, which could be approved by a simple majority. Harkin's explicit planning may be the most detailed public statement on reform strategy to date. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) has long been advocating changing the Senate rules on the first day of the next session, so as to skirt a supermajority threshold, but his proposal was considered just one of several being pushed by pro-reform advocates.

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This is fantastic. The system has been broke for a long time,;hing needs to be done. President Obama's judicial nominees have the worst confirmation statistics of any recent president, procedural roadblocks are thrown up to keep bills from straight up and down votes, cloture motions have set Congressional records by Republicans for the last three years.

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web comics, political, comics, comedy, comix

The debt, deficet, and ways to fix the Govt cash problem

President Obama's recent decision to freeze Gov employee's pay in order to save $2 Billion next year got me thinking of ways to bring cash to the coffers without undo burden to the taxpayer and business community.

2 billion is not a lot in terms of a trillion, but as they say "a billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you are talkin real money!"

So, (as I recently posted on my page) here's an idea to get some more cash into the coffers.
Tell me what you think, recommend changes, check my math (a little dyscalculia going on), cut and paste it to your Congressmen, recommend your own ideas, and etc

Federal 50/50

Everyone I've pitched this to loves it.
I've been getting pushed to formalize it and "get it out there", so here tis...

1) On the bottom of your tax form there is a check box that says:
"Yes, I want to enroll in the Federal 50/50"
If you tick it, $52 ($1 per week) is reduced from your refund, or added to your liability and you are entered into the 50/50.

2) Out of the ~310,700,000 people in America, approx 138,000,000 file taxes.
If only half of them tick the box, that means that each week there is a 50/50 drawing for approx $69,000,000.

3) Every week, the Fed Gov picks one SSN out of the people in the drawing (who ticked "yes" on their tax form).
The SSN that is puled splits $69,000,000 with the Federal Govt -- so the winner gets 34,500,000.

4) The winner ends up with approx $20,250,000 after taxes.
Most people who win are going to buy a few houses, big TVs, some cars, and generally do a great job of stimulating their local economies.

The fed gov gets a big lump of ~$3.6 billion, with an obligation of $1.8 billion over 12 months, but then get the taxes on that $1.8B... approximately $0.5 billion. Net, the govt would get around $2.3 billion, less the costs for administering it.


You must submit your taxes by Apr 30th, and lottery runs July to June.
The IRS should oversee it.
Filing jointly? $2/week.

Allow people to play 2x per month ($104 filing single, $208 filing jointly = ~$7B in the Gov Coffers or 14,000 Gov employees making $50k / year that the taxpayers don't have to directly support!).

Voluntary taxes = good!

The First Global Cyber War: Centralization vs. Decentralization

WikiLeaks backlash: The first global cyber war has begun, claim hackers | Media | The Observer

In a lot of science fiction, there is, in the story's past, many decades or even centuries or millennia before its subjective present, some sort of conflict that destroys the old order, and from its ashes rise a new one. We usually think of post-apoaclyptic fiction, ala Fallout, but this is not always the case; BattleTech had its "Second Soviet Civil War" which helped spurred the creation of a world government, and that can hardly be considered post-apocalyptic fiction. (Maybe apocalyptic, in some eyes.) Star Trek had World War III--in fact, lots of fiction had some sort of World War III--Halo had various conflicts on Earth and its intrasystem colonies...although this is a rather sparse list of examples, you get the drill. (In order to not distract myself, I'm not opening any new tabs to look for more.)

I've always wondered if we would have such a conflict, or some sort of event, in real life, that would fundamentally alter our progression into the future. Some have looked to the War on Terror or the iPhone as such moments, and while they are no doubt significant and important, I've looked to something more radical, more revolutionary, more fundamentally drastic. And since we're still not going to have AI during my lifetime, no matter what Ray Kurzweil says, I'm looking to human actions for such a sign.

Reading the above article, I felt what I was looking for for so long. Granted, a lot of it is no doubt The Guardian's own overhyping of the situation; they are, after all, a left-wing newspaper, and the Assange/WikiLeaks situation is seen as something of a left-wing rallying point (at least from where I'm sitting.) But I have no reason to doubt that the underpinnings of this article are, in fact, true. And when you read phrases like "seemed to be the first sustained clash between the established order and the organic, grassroots culture of the net," and "No one seems certain where the febrile cyber conflict will lead, only that it has just begun," you can't help but think that "Wow, something really big is going on. Something radical. Something that will change all of human society, perhaps forever."

I've been saying for the past two years now, almost three, that what's going on with the global recession and our economic woes is really the beginnings of the downfall of the old order. We've seen central banks around the world, and particularly in America, scurrying to protect the finances of their commercial backers while debasing the public currency, while governments bail out their corporate friends at the citizenry's expense and establish more rules that prevent those from the underclass from ever realizing their full potential and getting a chance to challenge the old dogs on a level playing field. Yet for all of this, what have they gotten? Barely anything. Although they've staved off a worse collapse (jury's still out on that one, though), their "success" is only fleeting. Already holes are appearing in the "jobless recovery," self-evident just from its name. There is no certainty we're out of the woods, and it appears that our "leaders" are just careening from one crisis to another. Moreover, although they've engaged in plenty of media massaging (and no, that's not a typo, I really mean that they're massaging the media) in order to improve their PR, it hasn't really worked. Certainly a great number of people have bought their message, but an even greater number haven't, and are either just skeptical or outright opposed to it.

This article, for me at least, crystallized and helped me realized exactly what is going on here. This conflict is not between libertarians and socialists, doves and hawks, Democrats and Republicans, or any other two groups. It is between two forces: centralization vs. decentralization. The former is the old way of doing things, with massive corporations buying huge amounts of influence with a central government, that increasingly micromanages not only its subnational units but also its own citizenry, infecting all aspects of life that can be arranged from a central authority. The latter is the new way of doing things, and is best exemplified by the "dooacracy" of Burning Man, the open source movement, Wikis, micromanufacturing, peer-to-peer services (of all kinds, not just file downloading), and DIY methods to all sorts of problems. While the 20th century was a period of centralization, the 21st century appears to be a period of decentralization, not only politically, but also socially, economically, culturally, and maybe even spiritually (goodbye to the Catholic Church? At the risk of offending my more devout friends, I surely hope so!)

This is only natural; as information has been spread, it is impossible to keep it all contained in one location. We've seen this most in the media sphere; in the past, large news organizations acted as the gatekeepers to information; only what they wanted to print or broadcast ended up in the public discussion. Through various means, power holders and the "elite" could keep the public in the dark. But with the rise of blogs, cheap recording equipment, and citizen journalism, no longer can anyone keep anyone in the dark. Wikileaks is a prime example; the original attempt at shutting it down only made it more resilient, spreading its information out farther, and now, as the article notes, it is effectively immune to attack. Unless every government and major corporation unite in a flawless, coordinated "strike" against the Wikileaks data, it will survive, somewhere. And potentially even then.

As for this war, I know not how long it shall last. It may be six weeks. It may be six months. It may even last six decades. But I do know, if it is not stopped in its infancy, our society will be changed irrevocably. With the power structures holding up the current regime already suffering structural integrity failure simply by how they're built, the application of some force will cause it to crumble into dust. It's possible that this First Global Cyber War will banish the state--or at least its heavily intrusive variant--into the annals of history for good, as people find new ways to work around the state and their corporate parasites shoving products into their faces 24/7. We're already seeing that those entities are not responding well to the hackers, as the shut down of, PayPal, Visa, and Mastercard's websites have shown. And if, god forbid, they gathered enough computers together and took down, say, the DoD network, we'll know who's won. (If the Chinese don't jump in.)

Looking at this, I can't help but feel that we're at a turning point. We're seeing the public itself, and its right to know, openly challenging the system of suppression and dominance we've been forced to live under for the past several decades. We're seeing the beginnings of an event that will forever change our history, and may one day be recorded in the history books paralleling the Battle of Marathon, the collapse of the Roman Empire, the invention of electricity, or the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Maybe.

May we live in interesting times.