bigmacbear: Me in a leather jacket and Hockey Night in Canada ball cap, on a ferry with Puget Sound in background (Default)
Uganda cleric shows gay porn film
bigmacbear: Me in a leather jacket and Hockey Night in Canada ball cap, on a ferry with Puget Sound in background (Default)
I've had a rather nasty little thought in the back of my head for a few months now, that has been difficult to articulate.

But I managed to sum up this rather disquieting thought: It appears the prescription for mitigating climate change is a host of individual actions and regulations that collectively will do serious damage to our democracy, our standards of living, or even our liberty itself. So skeptics argue that the science is outdated, fraudulent, or at any rate insufficient, precisely because to argue otherwise will force us to give up a significant chunk of our quality of life, and therefore we should do nothing. And I was all set to argue that maybe the skeptics are right.

Why I don't feel like doing that anymore... )

Bottom line: You don't have to be a neo-Luddite to have a positive impact on climate change... just do as much as you can to help ensure everyone pitches in. I hope this post helps in some small way.
bigmacbear: Me in a leather jacket and Hockey Night in Canada ball cap, on a ferry with Puget Sound in background (Default)
It seems that every form of government, regardless of how despotic or libertarian, must perforce grant its subjects the freedom to do what is necessary for survival; for to do otherwise is to invite open rebellion and the certain downfall of that government.

Where true freedom lies is in the freedom to do what is unnecessary: to travel as widely and frequently as one's budget can stand; to experiment with new forms of association, both business and personal; to love whom you will and reject the strictures of uninformed morality except where required to avoid real damage to others.

But it seems increasingly certain that, if the prophets of climatic doom and energy shortage are correct (or even if they manage to be acknowledged as correct and their prophecies are acted upon with enough vigor) that the actions we will be forced to take threaten to put such a stranglehold on precisely this freedom to do the unnecessary, that mankind will be forever impoverished as a result.

If these folks have their way, we will all be living quite circumscribed lives, unable to leave our tight-knit communities, freezing and starving ourselves in the name of impact-free living. Folks, impact-free living is an impossibility. Carbon dioxide is not the enemy; it is a byproduct of nature, produced by every living, breathing thing. And its effects are dwarfed by those of water vapor, which is not so easily demonized as the byproduct of human industry and is, in fact, impossible to control.

We need to come up with common-sense solutions to our economic issues. One of these common-sense solutions is: make stuff closer to the people who use it. Every time I visit the waterfront here in Seattle I see at least one of those ginormous container ships coming in with stuff made overseas because we can't afford to make stuff in the US anymore. And yet, the only way to create jobs that pay well enough is to make stuff here.

Raw materials need to be shipped hither and yon to support local manufacturing, but anyone can make stuff close to home so it doesn't have to be shipped yet again as finished goods. By decentralizing manufacturing, and allowing every nation to take responsibility for its own, we could create enough high-value work in every country that there would no longer be a need for mass migration for economic reasons alone. (Sadly, much mass migration is the result of political intransigence and outright warfare. It's difficult to set up infrastructure when your country is being blown to smithereens.)

Another common-sense solution might be to bring back rail travel, both medium and long-distance. Rail can be run on electricity which comes from renewable sources. It would be nice if aircraft could be powered in the same way, but most electric systems for locomotion, not to mention the batteries that must feed them, are just too danged heavy to power aircraft.

But we cannot let the doomsayers cripple human society in the name of trying to stop a natural process that is unstoppable. We can certainly be wiser in our energy use, but in the end it will not matter, and we should not enslave ourselves in the name of ineffectual attempts at impact-free living.
bigmacbear: Me in a leather jacket and Hockey Night in Canada ball cap, on a ferry with Puget Sound in background (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] gmjambear and I got to talking about President Obama's award of the Nobel Peace Prize. Gary suggested he received it, in part, because of his address to the Muslim world some months ago. I said he's got a gift for diplomatic public speaking, now let's see him get the opportunity to use it.

Gary reminded me that just as poverty was not wiped out in India when Mother Teresa received her prize, nor was civil rights a done deal in the US when Martin Luther King was awarded his, nor was the eternal conflict over Israel and Palestine settled when Yassir Arafat and Shimon Peres received theirs, so too is there much work yet to be done on the issues for which President Obama spoke so eloquently and thereby made himself a candidate for the prize.

And yes, it certainly helps that Obama is not Bush, as much as he might wish to hold on to the power that Bush left him during his eight disastrous years.

But in a field of endeavour in which progress comes, when it does at all, in painfully small increments over an excruciatingly long time, these awards are not so much for achievement but to promote whatever progress can be made. In other words, these are not laurels to be rested upon.
bigmacbear: Me in a leather jacket and Hockey Night in Canada ball cap, on a ferry with Puget Sound in background (Default)
This morning [livejournal.com profile] gmjambear and I attended an organizing meeting for Approve R-71 at the Labor Temple in downtown Everett. Gary was inspired to create an LJ community for the cause, called [livejournal.com profile] approve_ref71wa. Go Gary!
bigmacbear: Me in a leather jacket and Hockey Night in Canada ball cap, on a ferry with Puget Sound in background (Default)
First, a disclaimer. I am in a management position in which I may be called upon to fill in for a striking union member, while [livejournal.com profile] gmjambear has been a member of a different branch of the same union while employed at his previous job, and I have a brother-in-law who is a union machinist. I clearly have several competing biases on the topic. Nevertheless, in the interest of trying to clear up a highly charged political issue in my own mind, I write.

As much as I believe it should never have come to this, it's become clear to me that the chief weapon of organized labor -- the strike -- has proved to be an epic failure. Without the "nuclear option" of a strike, organized labor as a whole is left at a profound disadvantage in bargaining -- one with disturbing consequences for our standard of living, our economy as a whole, and perhaps even our national security.

Some real-world examples )

So what is to be done to prevent employers from running roughshod over their employees while unions become increasingly impotent and striking unthinkable? Let me think on that a bit.
bigmacbear: Me in a leather jacket and Hockey Night in Canada ball cap, on a ferry with Puget Sound in background (Default)
Dear Mr. President:

Please allow me to introduce myself. Read the rest of this letter... )

I have the original of this letter signed and sealed, and waiting to be dropped off for delivery to the White House.

For more information:
Yes we can, but we won't.
Dismay Over Obama's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Turnabout
bigmacbear: Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin, with superimposed caption "It's all about the Benjamins!" (benjamins)
...it seems to me that the health-care system in the US is infested with parasites, known as for-profit insurers, that act as rationers of health care and thereby end up killing patients as surely as any other parasite.

Discuss...
bigmacbear: Me in a leather jacket and Hockey Night in Canada ball cap, on a ferry with Puget Sound in background (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] fuzzbearmark posts a link to this article and asks if we are ready for "more stifling Government Controls?" While acknowledging the negative tone of the question, I submit to you all in answer that tighter regulation of financial institutions is precisely what we need.

The root cause of the credit crunch is that certain banks and insurers bet, in the guise of insurance contracts that were not regulated as such, vast sums of other people's money (read: yours and mine) that certain events would not happen. Then, for a number of reasons including overextended homeowners, house-flipping, predatory lending, and the soaring prices of oil and foodstuffs last summer, the bettors lost and the vast sums of money evaporated, impoverishing most of the nation.

Simply put, this kind of situation could not have happened with the kind of financial oversight wisely put into place during the aftermath of the Great Depression, and dismantled primarily under the Reagan administration with the final acts occurring as late as the Clinton administration. Absent these regulations, there has been far too much of the fox guarding the henhouse.

Unfortunately, whatever re-regulation Obama proposes will likely not go far enough, since it retains power in precisely the wrong institutions. The heads of Treasury and the Fed have ties to the very same banks and insurers that caused the crisis in the first place. And many folks blame the Fed for many of the nations' woes, arguing that Congress should never have allowed its prerogatives of making money to be delegated to a private entity beholden to its owners (the major banks of the country) -- and some argue that act was in fact unconstitutional.

But some form of re-regulation will have to be put in place, if only to assuage the anger of the defrauded American people, swindled out of their life's savings by predatory lenders and gamblers in the derivatives markets.
bigmacbear: Our Cairn terrier Brandy, wearing a pink bandanna, laying on a blanket with an Arizona pattern (Arizona)
First, check out this post from [livejournal.com profile] badrobot68.

These are two comments I added to that post, combined and synthesized:

This KOSsack argues that the Obama Justice Department, unlike its predecessors, takes seriously its duty to defend the law as it stands, and is therefore just doing its job.

Rationally and legally speaking, he's right. Emotionally, the language used is infuriating and demeaning. And I think we have every right to feel betrayed and scream bloody murder about this betrayal. This administration sorely needs to do some damage control if we are to maintain our political gains from the last election.

But more importantly, we need to also focus our outrage on our Congresscritters (both House and Senate) and let them know that a law which forces such absurd interpretation of the Constitution and legal precedent is simply a bad law, and must be disposed of forthwith. It is in Congress's power alone to do so. And Congress needs to take this off the President's already crowded plate.

On the other hand... It turns out that the brief everyone is so p.o.'ed about was co-written by a Mormon Bush appointee, according to Americablog.

Now we have a true and proper target for outrage, methinks. We need to have Congress complete its investigation into the politicization of the Justice Department under Bush, because absent any evidence of wrongdoing on his predecessor's part, Obama won't be able to undo the damage done.

Thanks [livejournal.com profile] gmjambear for the link and the suggestion to focus the blame where it belongs.

Oh, and I must confess, smelly briefs I don't ordinarily find that terribly objectionable, much like Brandy never did. But this one reeks to high heaven.
bigmacbear: Me in a leather jacket and Hockey Night in Canada ball cap, on a ferry with Puget Sound in background (Default)

When Censorware Goes Too Far



Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of s***ch, nor the right of the people to peaceably ***emble, and to pe***ion the government for a redress of grievances.
bigmacbear: Me in front of a bookcase, scowling and wagging a finger at the camera: how dare you! (how dare you)
I was listening to the Thom Hartmann show the other day and they had somebody on talking about how Monsanto and other agricultural firms are plotting to use the patent laws to acquire a monopoly on all food production worldwide, by making it illegal for farmers to engage in the time-honored practice of saving seed from their crops for next season. The person being interviewed mentioned his website, Seeds of Deception, so I thought I'd do some research.

It's worse than I thought. It appears there is a branch of the World Trade Organization that is tasked with forcing nations to enforce patents worldwide that conflict directly with their national security and sovereignty, that is spreading this virus of legal extortion globally. And it looks as though Monsanto is branching out from plants to animals by trying to patent the raising of pigs, so that in theory every pig farmer worldwide would be required to sign an onerous patent license for the privilege of raising pigs.

Taken to its logical conclusion, this legal fiction would give large agribusiness firms the ability to acquire and maintain absolute control of the global food supply for their own profit. And that cannot be allowed to happen. To do so is to squelch biodiversity, and one bad crop could risk global famine, starvation on a scale unseen in the history of the planet, and perhaps the end of the human race. If that isn't evil I defy you to tell me what is.

I now understand to some degree what motivated those hordes of people here in Seattle and elsewhere to such fits of angry destructive protest aimed at the WTO. This has got to stop before some nation (China, anyone?) interprets this legal movement as an act of war and nukes one of these firms' headquarters out of spite, thus launching Armageddon.

Bottom line: Some things should never be anyone's property; they belong to the planet and every living thing in it. No company should even for a moment consider that it has the right to a monopoly on the growing of food. And no organization, government, or individual has the power to grant such a monopoly. Lastly, the WTO has overstepped its authority and needs to be abolished.
bigmacbear: Me in a leather jacket and Hockey Night in Canada ball cap, on a ferry with Puget Sound in background (Default)
Just to wrap up some recent events in a tidy little package, I thought I'd bring up the three topics near and dear to the hearts of our conservative brethren to the South: guns, gays, and God.

Some possibly surprising takes on the issues... )
bigmacbear: Me in a leather jacket and Hockey Night in Canada ball cap, on a ferry with Puget Sound in background (Default)
Employers are balking at paying skyrocketing health insurance premiums. So the insurers have come up with a solution: Make the plans "consumer-driven", and jack up the deductibles so high that folks will think twice about seeing a doctor if they are sick. Preventive care (such as physicals) is not subject to the deductible, but maintenance care for a condition diagnosed by the physical is. These deductibles are high enough that unless one has a chronic condition requiring medication, or experiences a catastrophic illness, the insurance does them absolutely no good -- they pay 100% of their care out of pocket. About the only thing they are good for is preventing a catastrophic illness from bankrupting a family.

First these plans were foisted off on non-union (management) employees, who have no alternatives and no collective bargaining power to get a better deal. Now that these plans are being forced on unions, they are the direct cause of serious labor unrest. Even (or perhaps, especially) in this economy, as companies force these excuses for health insurance on their employees, this alone is going to be the issue that precipitates a strike.

And in my industry, a strike causes a lot of disruption. Somewhat like the military, my employer is prepared to order thousands of people (myself included) thousands of miles from home, at its convenience, not that of its employees -- in order to force the unions to capitulate. This is going to get ugly.

Essentially, the commercial health insurance industry is sucking the nation dry. We need to take the profit motive out of health insurance by offering a publicly-funded alternative or moving to a single-payer system. Otherwise, we will continue to have severe rationing of care, either self-rationing on the basis of price or outright denial of care by insurers, as has been demonstrated by the horror stories we've all seen (The Runaway Jury is not that far from actual documented cases in the courts).
bigmacbear: Me in a leather jacket and Hockey Night in Canada ball cap, on a ferry with Puget Sound in background (Default)
In explanation of the current crap economy, [livejournal.com profile] mcfnord wrote in response to a post in [livejournal.com profile] badrobot68's journal:

What has happened is people here and around the world freaked out and cut their spending way back. Furthermore, banks have freaked out. These are the two freakouts that need to end as part of our recovery.

I'd add that we're now in the phase where general employers are freaking out, which only makes matters that much worse, because employers freaking out and announcing layoffs gives their employees that much more reason to freak out themselves.

Now in times like these people act in their own self-interest by saving money under the reasonable assumption that one never knows when one's employer is going to freak out like everybody else. The basic problem is that leads to the Paradox of Thrift in which the individual self-interest in saving is actually in conflict with the wider economy's interest in spending.

These are but two parts of the vicious circle that makes economic downturns feel like they will spiral on until the world comes to an untimely end. But that cannot happen indefinitely on the grand and global scale. Simply put, while individuals may decide that life in these new and strange circumstances isn't worth living, for most people, survival instincts will kick in. Plus there will be a core of positions that will always need to be filled -- and some need even more people the worse the economy gets.

So there is a limit to how low the economy will go. And while it will certainly suck -- and not in a nice way -- for large numbers of people, it won't be "the death of America" or "the death of capitalism" or even "the death of American capitalism". The nation has been through this before. It will be ugly and inconvenient and will probably hang around a lot longer than one would wish, but anyone who can keep one's head while all around are losing theirs will be better off in the long term.

Oh, and as for the title tune, Le Freak was written because of the band's rejection from Studio 54 one fabulous New Years' Eve, and the famous "aaahhh... freak out!" was originally "aaahhh... fuck off!"
bigmacbear: Me in a leather jacket and Hockey Night in Canada ball cap, on a ferry with Puget Sound in background (Default)
Note to self: If called upon to sing "America (My Country 'Tis of Thee)" in public, do not stop to take a breath in the middle of the word "Country". (At least the Queen of Soul didn't pronounce the "t" until she was done taking her breath, or it would not have been pretty.)

I keep wanting to call Rev. Rick Warren's church "Brokeback" instead of "Saddleback". No clue why... ;-)

I am so gratified that we weren't treated to a chorus of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from either the former President or the former Vice President, as I'd feared. In fact, George II didn't even get around to pardoning his partners in crime.

How wonderful it is to hear a President who speaks in complete sentences and imaginative, soaring prose, as opposed to mangled syntax, malapropisms, and repetitive slogans (September the 11th -- apply directly to the forehead).
bigmacbear: Me in a leather jacket and Hockey Night in Canada ball cap, on a ferry with Puget Sound in background (Default)
Bernie Madoff with a lot of other people's money. ;-)
bigmacbear: Me in a leather jacket and Hockey Night in Canada ball cap, on a ferry with Puget Sound in background (Default)
Last night I posted a comment on [livejournal.com profile] ciddyguy's journal regarding all the "good riddance to 2008" messages winging their way around LJ these days. He's of the opinion that he did OK in 2008 and wonders why those not directly affected by the crap economy are so down on last year in their journals. I thought I'd expand on my comment here and see what others think.

We've done well but others haven't. )

So all in all, I think we've done well in spite of the financial turmoil of the latter portion of 2008, but I also think people have every right to kvetch when they haven't done as well.

Hmmm....

Oct. 4th, 2008 11:01 pm
bigmacbear: Me in a leather jacket and Hockey Night in Canada ball cap, on a ferry with Puget Sound in background (Default)
While for the most part I have to discount conspiracy theories of all stripes as irrational, there's a little part of my brain that is drawn to them like a moth to a porch light. And so I wonder whether the folks behind Paulson and Bernanke making the request for the bailout pulled the right strings in the stock market on Monday to manufacture that big drop in the Dow, scaring the beJesus out of Congress and the American public alike, in order to get the bailout passed. Hmmm...

On a happier and more amusing front, I was talking with Mom the other day about my brother-in-law's job at GE Aircraft Engine and whether the Boeing strike had had any effect on it. She said no, he's actually busier than ever. I wondered aloud if perhaps Bombardier might be taking up some of the slack in production, pronouncing it "bom-ba-deer" as is common English pronunciation. This got [livejournal.com profile] gmjambear chuckling, as because Bombardier is based in Quebec, its name is properly pronounced in French, as "bom-bar-dee-yay".
bigmacbear: Me in a leather jacket and Hockey Night in Canada ball cap, on a ferry with Puget Sound in background (Default)
Naked short selling. No, this is not about day-traders operating over the Internet from the privacy of their homes without a stitch of clothes on. ;-)

In an ordinary "short sale", an investor borrows stock from a broker, then selling it on the open market in hopes that by the time he must return the stock to its owner, its price (at which he must re-purchase the stock to return) will have fallen enough that the proceeds of the initial sale will cover the repurchase and the fee charged for borrowing the stock, and leave some residual sum as profit. The broker may in turn borrow that stock from a customer, sharing a portion of the loan fee with the customer actually owning the stock.

A "naked short sale" is one in which either the broker fails to deliver the stock that was borrowed, or the investor didn't even bother borrowing the stock in the first place. If done intentionally, this is considered illegal, and may be prosecuted as securities fraud in several jurisdictions including the US and the UK.

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