An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Social Security, pensions and medicare in the crosshairs

(Updated below)
I want to spread this far and wide because Cenk Uygur has raised a point I've been going on about for years: The richest people in the U.S. are going after the last remaining pot of money to plunder: our retirement and medicare.

The only thing I can add is that they do not even mention the wars and the cost of those wars. Also, why, Mr. Carlson, are there not enough rich people to pay down the deficit? Did they hid the money too well? Anyway, I would like to test that hypothesis.

Stick with this video to the end to hear about Colorado reneging on its State pensions and how corporations are "looking at Colorado" for inspiration.

Yikes! I say, yikes!

Links to additional background information (links via

Social Security Finances: Findings of the 2009 Trustees Report, National Academy of Social Insurance Social Security Brief, May, 2009

Social Security Beneficiary Data, Social Security Administration.

Thunderf00t in mouth?

There is a person who goes by the handle ThunderF00t on YouTube. He makes
pro-science and anti-superstition videos. I have enjoyed most of what he does, especially his Why People Laugh at Creationists series. He recently made one about the South Park episode that obtained death threats:

Although I do not agree with some of his statements, the fact that Viacom or someone claiming to be Viacom had filed a DMCA complaint had video taken down shows how easy it is to censor someone one YouTube. (Yes, I know it's a commercial venture and not a public forum, but it advertises itself as a public forum and it uses a national resource, the internet, which was created with public funds then pretty much handed over for free to a bunch of empty suits like Google. But I digress). It's a free speech issue for me.

The statements that trouble me may not be acts which Thunderf00t wants to happen but it may be only predictions. But his overall tone of anger makes it sound like he wants violence to happen. I'm not sure. I'd be interested in other opinions on this one.

I think this is an anti-Islamic screed. I think that he IS threatening the "Islamic World". I can't stand Islamists, much as I can't stand Fundamentalists of any other religion. I share the same enemies as this guy, but I don't think I'm on the same side as him. In his ridiculously simple minded view of the West living in the age of enlightenment, he neglects to mention all the enlightened terrorism of colonialism, slavery and bigotry of the first world (i.e.: Christendom). I don't know what moral high ground this character THINKS he's living on, but it is in its own way as manufactured as the gods that he lambastes. I think this is a prime example of an intolerant secular humanist. He should change his screen name to ThunderF00t-in-mouth.

(note: this exchange took place last April. I post it here because I found the exchange interesting and would be interested in seeing if anyone would care to comment. -- Steven).

Welcome new blog author: AR

One of my closest life-long friends has agreed to post to this blog. He prefers to go by the letters "AR." I have had many interesting e-mail exchanges with AR and often wished I could put his writing on this blog. Now there's someone with whom to interact and disagree with me on occasion.

I started out in the mid-90s maintaining a web site which tracked various forms of censorship and examined what was then the new phenomenon of "alternative media." Well in internet years it's been a couple of centuries since then. Alt media has developed and mainstream media has experienced some set-backs. There's more to write about than only censorship. In the U.S. we also have seen, since 2001, an astonishing frontal assault on the Bill of Rights, the writ of habeas corpus, and a President who "put out a hit" on a U.S. citizen. AR and I write about more than just the narrowly focussed topics with which I started in the mid-90s.

Looking back on the last 10 years, I can only summarize with: Yikes! I say, Yikes!

How long have babies been around?

There's a story on the AP wire this morning that 7 companies that manufacture cribs have recalled about 2 million of them. Design flaws have led to the recall. The movable slide can detach or "malfunction" (?!) leading to babies' heads trapped, injury or strangulation.

Humans have been placing their babies in cribs for how many millennia now? Their physiology and frailty long ago fully studied, documented and understood, yes? Why is it that in the 21st century some nitwits can't figure out how to design a crib so it does not kill the person using it? Who do they think they are, the tobacco industry?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Guess what? Torture wasn't needed in the Time Square Bomber Case.

By AR.

Faisal Shahzad, the self-admitted Time Square bomber, has confessed to all ten charges against him. I hope that he will enjoy his life as a prisoner after sentence is passed in October. What I would like to point out is that he was not tortured. It will probably be confusing to Dick Cheney and the rest of the pro-torture crowd, but it is something that makes me proud. We do not need to torture terrorists. We do not need to send them to secret prisons, like the one at Bagram Airfield. Our legal system can actually handle these kinds of cases. I wish President Obama would keep that in mind. It seems to slip in and out of his mind at times. The Christmas day underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was also not tortured and is reported to have given up lots of information. Fairness and decency seem to work when dealing terrorists. This is a point that cannot be made enough and is certainly never heard from the chicken hawks on the Right. I wish this had been more a part of the coverage of Faisal Shahzad's confession yesterday.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jon Stewart on Obama and Presidential power

I wanted to make the punch line the title for this post but I don't want to give it away for those who have not yet seen it. From an excellent post by's Glenn Greenwald on the Obama's record on executive power. He deconstructs the lefty-liberal defense we typically see for the President's actions (or lack of same).
Then at the bottom of the post there's this gem from the Daily Show:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

BP's hostages

I was inspired by Tom Tomorrow's latest This Modern World cartoon to look for citations for the statements of fact I found in it. Sad to say I am so disconnected that I had to learn about this from a cartoon:

BP has responded to the disaster with all the resources at its disposal: money, personnel, lawyers. That's right. It's responded aggressively to the PR disaster.

For the wonks among you, here are the sources:

International Business times on BP's buying keyword searches to direct people to its own page about the oil spill. and the ABC news story on the keyword buying spree.

A YouTube video showing a segment from CBS News which shows a member of the U.S. Coast Guard (rank unknown) saying "BP's Rules, not ours." He is accompanying a boatload of BP contractors who tell journalists they can not go to the oil fouled beach.

Even more obnoxious: BP forces clean up workers to sign non-disclosure agreements. Since that last was a less well known source, here's another on non-disclosure agreements from CNN.

Don't worry folks, it gets worse. Yahoo news on BP blaming sick clean up workers illnesses on food poisoning. (For some reason this conjured up the memory of 19th century mine owners in Rhodesia publishing articles that claimed that black mine workers suffered from scurvy due to poor oral hygiene - we give 'em toothbrushes but they just don't use 'em). And, of course, there's worse: Amy Goodman interviews clean up workers (formerly fishermen) who BP has threatened with firing if they wear their own respirators.

And now for the comic relief.

ABC News on BP's $50 Million dollar ad campaign. Darn, $50 million does not buy as much belief as it used to. Credulity inflation.

And the winner in the comic relief dept: A conservative liberal-baiting internet news site's report on Haley Barour's statements that the media is doing more harm than the spill (was he trying to channel Bagdad Bob?!).

The big issue I have not seen covered very much:

Here's a Reuters story on the structural economic blackmail that keeps BP politically protected: it accounts for 12 percent of the dividends paid into British retirement funds. Don't impose any realistic accountability on BP or the old limeys are screwed. This, what I call structural blackmail, has to change before corporations lose their power over the world. As long as corporations such as BP have hostages they can shoot the rest of us can not do much without harming each other.


One more in the PR hit parade: BP has hired mercenaries (call them security guards) in addition to enlisting local law enforcement and the Coast Guard.