Haunting our times

We live in odd times. I hadn’t expected that. I would have thought there’d be much warmth and celebration by now, working in a global ‘camp kitchen’ somehow. Not this rude stuff again. Yes, I feel somewhat surprised by it. And gullible.

I’ve just watched a video on YouTube, “Nickel and Dimed“. Has me irked.

Barbara Ehrenreich is featured in this musical excerpt made by The American Ruling Class, a “dramatic-documentary-musical” starring Harper’s Magazine editor emeritus Lewis Lapham.

“Divine madness” says The Montreal Mirror.

One commentor under the video said, “I first saw this on Bill Moyer’s Journal on KCET here in Los Angeles…. The premise is clear. The working class are the silent majority that will rise someday against the corporate machine, i.e. WalMart, and will get a decent wage. This is not propaganda, but truth.”

I enjoy the word irk.

Orwell’s Volunteers

wrapped boxI have privacy. I am a large box wrapped in bright paper tied with string. To open the box, you must pull the string. But if we fail to provide authentic privacy, we wrap ourselves in nothing, not even brown paper, and no string.

We may not have privacy for long.

If we want to keep our jobs, we might all become accustomed to living without privacy as Homeland Security rules change our culture.

For example, NASA employees are concerned that new security requirements are demanding so much transparency, folks will be packaged in glass.

According to this article about a JPL professional, she must “either sign over to the Federal Government the right to investigate every aspect of her life or she can “voluntarily” choose to not be allowed entry into the building wherein she works.”

A new Presidential Directive is demanding a privacy waiver from employees which will authorize fingerprinting, credit checks, financial history, bill paying and spending habits, marriage and court records, medical and mental health records, character references, family and sibling disclosure, and not the least, authorizes investigating adverse comments from peer and neighbor interviews, with any of these investigations to be carried out by third-party contractors.

“Executive Order 10450 requires National Agency Checks with Written Inquiries…” where ALL federal employees, as well as contractors, students, interns, etc. associated with the government must sign the waiver or voluntarily not show up for work. “Form 85” says you agree to give up the information or you will be ‘voluntarily resigned’.

A number of scientists and staff have joined a lawsuit to be heard this week.

One employee struggled to retain her unemployment benefits when she stood to her principles by not submitting her signed waiver. I suppose glass packages can break.

Are tyrants for sale?

We could have purchased Saddam Hussein for one billion dollars. That’s a discount of 100s of billions of dollars.

Buying off threats is not customary, but it’s cheaper.

The former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar kept notes and recorded his meeting in Crawford, Texas with a war-biased George W. Bush. He’s “revealed a previously undisclosed initiative to avert war in Iraq by spiriting Saddam Hussein out of the country.”

Full story here.

Terms of Service give AT&T the right


“AT&T’s new Terms of Service give AT&T the right to suspend your account and all service “for conduct that AT&T believes”…”(c) tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries.” After cooperating with the government’s violations of privacy and liberties, I guess AT&T wants their fair share. AT&T users may want to think twice about commenting if they value their internet service.”

Lily Tomlin
“We handle eighty-four billion calls a year. Serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth. We realize that every so often you can’t get an operator, for no apparent reason your phone goes out of order, or perhaps you get charged for a call you didn’t make.

We don’t care.

Watch this.. [ she hits buttons maniacally ] ..just lost Peoria.

You see, this phone system consists of a multibillion-dollar matrix of space age technology that is so sophisticated, even we can’t handle it. But that’s your problem, isn’t it? Next time you complain about your phone service, why don’t you try using two Dixie cups with a string?

We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the Phone Company.”

The scary thing is that

Separate this

Furthermore, every man is responsible for his own faith, and he must see it for himself that he believes rightly. As little as another can go to hell or heaven for me, so little can he believe or disbelieve for me; and as little as he can open or shut heaven or hell for me, so little can he drive me to faith or unbelief. Since, then, belief or unbelief is a matter of every one’s conscience, and since this is no lessening of the secular power, the latter should be content and attend to its own affairs and permit men to believe one thing or another, as they are able and willing, and constrain no one by force. – Martin Luther, Doctrine of Liberty of Conscience.

Ozone is unhealthy

Antique Ozone GeneratorThe State of California has banned ozone generators wherever there are people nearby.

Once sold as a miracle device to cure Anemia, Hay Fever, Coughs, Catarrh, Asthma, Bronchitis, Insomnia, Nervous Debility and Tuberculosis, California’s Department of Air Resources says that marketers of indoor ozone generators are once again deceiving the public.

“There are thousands of peer-review studies showing ozone is dangerous,” states the American Lung Assn. of California. Anyone caught selling the devices after a two-year phase-in period [2009] could be subject to fines starting at $1,000 a day. [story]

Is anybody making decisions?

Sir Richard Branson at Virgin is lobbying the idea that all airplanes be towed from the gate to the runway rather than turn on their engines at the gate and then remain, engines running, for minutes (or hours) waiting for a take-off slot.

He said that if this was applied to all airplanes, “8 to 9 % of the carbon produced by airlines could be avoided”. [via Bruno Giussani]

Who painted the rainbow?

Rainbow Tunnel, Waldo Grade, Marin“I was driving north on US-101 on the Waldo Grade in Marin County when I was struck by the sight of the tunnel which appeared like a rainbow except for the lack of color.

“Why not make it a rainbow?

“I was so certain that the bureaucrats at Sacramento would find 1000 reasons why I couldn’t paint the rainbows that I never made any effort to get their approval. – Alan S. Hart, CalTrans Engineer during 40 years on the job.

Consequences with your coffee?

Global Warming MugWhy wait twenty years? Witness the effect of devastating rising seas right now with the Global Warming Mug?

Filled with a hot drink, land mass begins to disappear, oceans devour coastlines and the ice caps melt.

It’s the end of the world as we know it! Pass the biscotti.

License plate surveillance

Twenty-five thousand cars have been seized in Britain using ‘license plate recognition’ cameras to check various databases to determine whether the car is

  1. unregistered,
  2. uninsured or
  3. if the driver is wanted for a crime.

[more at Motor Authority]

Why bastards get the girl

Adventures of Don JuanA new psychological theory

Psychologist Dr Andrew Clark at the University of Bristol finds that facial movements, outright flirting, gets the girl.

“Men who smiled, nodded and raised their eyebrows more – won every time.” [go figure]

Osama bin Laden rebuked

In an open letter, one of bin Laden’s most prominent Saudi mentors, the preacher and scholar Salman al-Oadah, publicly reproached bin Laden for causing widespread mayhem and killing.

“How many innocent children, elderly people, and women have been killed in the name of al-Qaeda?”

“How many people have been forced to flee their homes, and how much blood has been shed in the name of al-Qaeda?”

Although al-Oadah and other senior Muslim scholars condemned the Sept. 11 attacks, until now they had refrained from direct criticism of bin Laden.

Now, with al-Oadah’s new frontal assault on bin Laden, there is no longer any ambiguity.

In his statement in a letter on his website, Islamtoday.com, and in comments on an Arabic television station, al-Oadah holds bin Laden personally accountable for the occupation of Muslim lands in Afghanistan and Iraq, the displacement of millions of Iraqis and the killings of thousands of Afghans, for deluding young Muslims and tarnishing the image of Islam and Muslims all over the world.

“Are you happy to meet Allah with this heavy burden on your shoulders?” al-Oadah asks bin Laden. “It is a weighty burden indeed — at least hundreds of thousands of innocent people, if not millions (displaced and killed). And it is all because of the ‘crimes’ perpetrated against civilians by bin Laden’s al-Qaeda on Sept. 11.”

[link to story]

Your Powdered Corpse

From Sweden, Promessa is offering new options in Corpseware and ecological dying:

  • The corpse is frozen to minus 18 degrees Celsius and then submerged in liquid nitrogen.

  • This makes the body very brittle.
  • Vibration of a ‘specific amplitude’ transforms it into an organic powder. [!!]
  • A vacuum chamber evaporates the body’s 74% water.
  • The now dry powder then passes through a metal separator where any surgical ‘spare parts’ and mercury are removed.
  • The remains are now ready to be laid in a coffin made of corn starch. [!!]
  • There is no hurry with the burial itself. The organic powder, which is hygienic and odorless, does not decompose when kept dry.
  • The burial takes place in a shallow grave in living soil that turns the coffin and its contents into compost in about 6-12 months time.

Powder after green dying processClick ‘The Greening of Dying‘ for a roundup of green burial options, including ‘body-reduction boiling’ and other innovations.

Tip to SpringWise for the new Cracked Ice Corpse Method.

Is Burma for sale?

In a silly attempt to buy Burma and shunt the junta into becoming wealthy corporate shareholders, I wish my efforts had been successful twenty years ago. But I still wonder if a mercantile approach in Myanmar wouldn’t be effective. Greed has colors other than the saffron and blood red we see today. But I can tell you that companies and institutions vacated Burma when conditions began to affect their brand and reputation, and that’s the color of yellow. Levi’s was sewing jeans. Macy’s fashion. Union Carbide held on for a few years. There’s a neon list of top firms that made it easy for the pickup truck pythons to strangle Burma. They just walked away. What now?

Simon Tisdall at The Guardian states:

Western governments are right to condemn the repression in Burma. But for the most part, their actions, inaction and indifference have strengthened the generals – and they should take their share of the blame for what is happening now.

Buying off threats is not customary, but it’s cheaper.

We would have saved 100s of billions buying Saddam Hussein.

The former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar kept notes and recorded his meeting in Crawford, Texas with George W. Bush. He’s “revealed a previously undisclosed initiative to avert war in Iraq by spiriting Saddam Hussein out of the country.” Cost? A bargain at one billion.

Full story here.

Biofuels increase global warming

Measurements of emissions from the burning of biofuels derived from Europe’s rapeseed and America’s corn have been found to produce more greenhouse gas emissions than they save. The Times, via checkbiotech via Doug Powell.

With the US Senate aiming to increase corn ethanol production sevenfold by 2022, greenhouse gas emissions from transport will rise by 6 per cent. Rapeseed and corn biodiesels were calculated to produce up to 70 per cent and 50 per cent more greenhouse gases respectively than fossil fuels.

Sadly, I’ve assumed that if a policy is formed during this era of government, it’s wrong. While happy last year to see a shift to agricultural fuels, I’m learning this year that inadequate research, favors to friends and pulpit populism are behind America’s biofuel policies.

“One wants rational decisions rather than simply jumping on the bandwagon because superficially something appears to reduce emissions,” said Keith Smith, a professor at the University of Edinburgh.

What is a nation?

Michael Byers holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia.

He’s asking, “What is a nation if not its people? Why can’t an entire country be a ‘global citizen’? Why can’t this be our ‘intent for a nation’?

“My mentor, the Cambridge international lawyer and social philosopher Philip Allott, opened my eyes to a simple but incredibly empowering fact: much of what human beings take to be immutable about political systems — traditions, norms, laws and constitutions; institutions and organizations; even the nation-state itself — exists principally at the level of human ideas. As a result, these seemingly immutable structures can in fact be changed.

“All we have to do is imagine something different — better laws, a better country, even a better world — and then translate our ideas into action. Can we do it?

Biofuel or Biofraud?

From the NYTimes, the difference in greenhouse gas emissions from cars burning gasoline-only fuel and fuels made from various forms of ethanol:

  • Corn ethanol: 0-3 percent greenhouse gas emission reduction.
  • Sugar cane ethanol: 50-70 percent reduction.
  • Cellulosic ethanol: 90-plus percent.

But wait, there’s more:

Which form of ethanol production is the United States government (and its taxpayers) subsidizing? Corn, of course.

Which form of ethanol production does the United States government levy a 53-cents-a-gallon import tariff on? Sugar cane, naturally.

And which form of ethanol production is under-funded, under-researched, and furthest from commercial production? The cleanest choice, obviously.

Do you see a pattern here?

An additional snippet from the comments at the NYTimes article:

Estimated ethanol yields by the gallon for different plants per acre of land:

  • Corn Grain = 354 gallons per acre
  • Sugar Cane = 662 gallons per acre
  • Switch Grass = 1150 gallons per acre
  • Hemp = 1000 gallons per acre

Pure Good Strong Willing

If truly that’s youly so duly on toes;
The hat, the ribbon, the upturned nose;
More proud, more able than anyone knows,
Then of course I’ll be wherever you goes.

We knew it would happen

The always concise Mike Masnick at Techdirt alerts us to why we grump that systems are always weak when overly powerful.

A disgruntled employee at the USA Department of Homeland Security uses its database to track his girlfriend 163 times, to arrange for her deportation, and attempt to kill her family!

We forget that for centuries we have struggled to be free of the threat of authority rather than from the authority of threats.

BTW, what’s a gruntled employee?

While planning otherwise

While the touch of Nature’s art
Harmonizes heart to heart,
I leave this notice on my door
For each accustomed visitor:

I am gone into the fields
To take what this sweet hour yields.
Reflection, you may come tomorrow,
Sit by the fireside with Sorrow.
You with the unpaid bill, Despair;
You, tiresome verse-reciter, Care,
I will pay you in the grave.
Death will listen to your stave.
Expectation too, be off!
Today is for itself enough.

To Jane: An invitation

Full-floor Reunion

37days posted this photo of a mother and her child after returning from Iraq.

Patricia Digh writes in her post,
“I saw this photograph, a soldier returning to her young daughter after being stationed in Iraq.

“Now this–this is a real reunion.

“This is a reunion where aggressive moisturizing plays no part, where posturing or nervousness or trying to impress play no part. No, this is the kind of full-floor reunion we should all have.

“Real, honest, true emotion.”

A syndicated photo at LATimes shows Terri Gurrola as she ‘clings to her daughter Gabrielle, 3, at the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, having just returned from a seven-month tour in Iraq.’

1st Lt. Terri Gurrola is a medic in Company C, 203rd Forward Support Battalion. She’s also featured here in an Operation Iraqi Freedom story about assisting wounded Iraqi civilians.

The billboard footprint

To move toward less pollution, the fourth largest city in the world, Sao Paolo, Brazil, has banned all outdoor advertising – neon signs, banners, billboards; all the ads are being taken away.

More than 70 percent of its citizens submitted approval. WorldChanging posts part of the justification here.

and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Is Your Boss Spying on You? Inside New Workplace Surveillance

More stealthy and prevalent than ever before, corporate security software is monitoring your every move inside and out of the office. Your employer has more powerful tools to watch over you than the cops—and there’s nothing you can do about it.