Saturday, June 29, 2002

Reorganizing Links

I have reorganized my link list, and I have added a few new blogs. Over the course of the last week, I have added Amish Tech Support, Ideas, Etc., The Illuminated Donkey, Large American Organ (that is not the precise name of the blog, but I don't want really bizarre search engine hits!), Leaning to the Right, and Ole Miss Conservative. I also removed two apparently dead blogs, but I will add them back if the owners return.

Underneath the newly unified blog list, I added a few news source links. This list will grow as time goes on, but they are useful links to major newspapers, plus a few that are locally interesting, as well as the indispensable Media Research Center and National Review Online.

posted at 09:18 PM | permalink | Comments (2)

Many thanks... I tacked you on to my own blogroll a while back to keep an eye on things... I envy your color scheme,

posted by Laurence Simon on June 29, 2002 09:24 PM

Thanks, but Robyn did all of the work. As a look at the old site proves, I wasn't able to pull it off very well.

posted by Timekeeper on June 29, 2002 10:20 PM

Barbara Eherenreich—member of the Blitherati

Another screed from The Nation Alumna Barbara Ehrenreich appears in today's New York Times. I have taken the liberty of responding to her directly, as an experiment.

Only a person of unblemished virtue can get a job at Wal-Mart — a low-level job, that is, sorting stock, unloading trucks or operating a cash register. A drug test eliminates the chemical miscreants; a detailed "personality test" probes the job applicant's horror of theft and willingness to turn in an erring co-worker.

Here's a clue for you, Babs—High-level employees don't start at the top.

Here's another clue—It's not just entry-level jobs at Wal-Mart. Ask anybody who works in a job with a security clearance, whether governmental or private sector—they are subjected to a background check that would probably cause you to stroke out, in addition to continued drug testing. I have seen a Navy Commander on a random urinalysis testing roster; they are in the same computer database as the lower-level people, and are just as likely to have to provide a specimen.

Extreme submissiveness to authority is another desirable trait. When I applied for a job at Wal-Mart in the spring of 2000, I was reprimanded for getting something "wrong" on this test: I had agreed only "strongly" to the proposition, "All rules have to be followed to the letter at all times." The correct answer was "totally agree."

Ah, yes. Flexibility in adherence to rules. We all know how public sector agencies such as the IRS and the EPA are willing to overlook minor infractions, and work with groups, agencies, and individuals who fail to comply with the rules. Your failure to follow the rules to the letter when OSHA is around can result in some severe fines for your employer, whether it is Wal-Mart or The Nation.

Apparently the one rule that need not be slavishly adhered to at Wal-Mart is the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires that employees be paid time and a half if they work more than 40 hours in a week. Present and former Wal-Mart employees in 28 states are suing the company for failure to pay overtime.
A Wal-Mart spokesman says it is company policy "to pay its employees properly for the hours they work." Maybe so, but it wasn't a policy I remember being emphasized in the eight-hour orientation session all new "associates" are required to attend. The session included a video on "associate honesty" that showed a cashier being caught on videotape as he pocketed some bills from the cash register. Drums beat ominously as he was led away in handcuffs and sentenced to four years in prison.

And your point? Do you not consider theft to be a crime that deserves punishment?

The personnel director warned us, in addition, against "time theft," or the use of company time for anything other than work — "anything at all," she said, which was interpreted in my store as including trips to the bathroom. We were to punch out even for our two breaks, to make sure we did not exceed the allotted 15 minutes.

Another common practice, as there are those that will spend more time socializing, smoking, primping in front of the mirror, or just slacking unless they are specifically told that that is not acceptable. I have worked minimum-wage jobs myself, and some of the people I worked with were grossly overpaid at $3.35/hour.

It turns out, however, that Wal-Mart management doesn't hold itself to the same standard of rectitude it expects from its low-paid employees. My first inkling of this came in the form of a warning from a co-worker not to let myself be persuaded to work overtime because, she explained, Wal-Mart doesn't pay overtime. Naïvely, I told her this was impossible; such a large company would surely not be flouting federal law.

For some reason, I don't expect you to write a retraction if Wal-Mart is exonerated of these charges. I have never worked for Wal-Mart, so I cannot comment on their working environment. I've seldom heard anything negative about the company, though, except from those who oppose it simply because it represents a successful business model.

I should have known better. We had been apprised, during orientation, that even after punching out, associates were required to wait on any customers who might approach them. Thanks to the further requirement that associates wear their blue and yellow vests until the moment they went out the door, there was no avoiding pesky last-minute customers.
Now some present and former employees have filed lawsuits against Wal-Mart. They say they were ordered to punch out after an eight-hour shift and then continue working for no pay. In a practice, reported in The Times, that you might expect to find only in a third-world sweatshop, Wal-Mart store managers in six states have locked the doors at closing time, some employees say, forcing all present to remain for an hour or more of unpaid labor.

I will flatly state that I find this quite difficult to believe (the unpaid hour part). Locking the doors when a store closes is common practice (keeps additional customers from entering the store), but only if the employees are forced to punch out and continue working is this a labor violation.

This is "time theft" on a grand scale — practically a mass mugging. Of course, in my brief experience while doing research for a book on low-wage work, I found such practices or milder versions of them by no means confined to Wal-Mart.

Here she sets up a vast indictment of American business in general.

At a Midwestern chain store selling hardware and lumber, I was offered an 11-hour shift five days a week — with no overtime pay for the extra 15 hours. A corporate-run housecleaning service paid a starting wage of only $6.65 an hour but required us to show up in the morning 40 minutes before the clock started running — for meetings and to prepare for work by filling our buckets with cleaning supplies.

Not all jobs are based on a 40-hour work week. Teachers work less than 40 hours; doctors and cops often work more. My father worked 65 hours/week for many years with no additional pay; when I am deployed, I may work 100 hours/week, 7 days a week. I receive less money when I am deployed, although I don't have to pay for housing and food when I am away from home. Long hours come part and parcel with some jobs; if you don't like the hours, don't take the job.

What has been revealed in corporate America over the past six months is a two-tier system of morality: Low-paid employees are required to be hard-working, law-abiding, rule-respecting straight arrows. More than that, they are often expected to exhibit a selfless generosity toward the company, readily "donating" chunks of their time free of charge. Meanwhile, as we have learned from the cases of Enron, Adelphia, ImClone, WorldCom and others, many top executives have apparently felt free to do whatever they want — conceal debts, lie about profits, engage in insider trading — to the dismay and sometimes ruin of their shareholders.

Adelphia, Enron, and Worldcom are going to end up with people in jail for their misdeeds, and Arthur Anderson has vanished without a trace, because its lies were brought to light.

But investors are not the only victims of the corporate crime wave. Workers also suffer from management greed and dishonesty. In Wal-Mart's case, the moral gravity of its infractions is compounded by the poverty of its "associates," many of whom are paid less than $10 an hour. As workers discover that their problem is not just a rogue store manager or "bad apple" but management as a whole, we can expect at the very least widespread cynicism, and perhaps an epidemic of rule-breaking from below.

Oh, the "poverty" card. An employee who works a 40-hour week at $10/hour will earn $20,000/year, which is above the poverty line for a family of four. If a spouse gets a comparable job, they will together earn $40,000, which is enough for a family to live in reasonable comfort, as long as it is not in a high-rent area such as the NYC area, the SF Bay region, Alaska, or Hawaii.

Remember, most of the people stuck in low-end jobs are a)students, b) retirees, or c) those who have not completed high school. Since students generally live with their parents and retirees receive Social Security benefits, the only people your diatribe is relevant to is those who failed to graduate. Since school is free and universal, those who drop out have only themselves to blame. Companies pay more to people who have more education; that is simple economics at work.

posted at 08:49 PM | permalink | Comments (2)

I'm an O-4 in the reserves and I've peed in the bottle 4 times this fiscal year. 4 out of 9 weekends. I'll bet that's more than most active duty guys.

posted by Kevin on June 30, 2002 12:33 PM

I can empathize. Although I'm active duty, I've been tagged five times in the last 10 months. Unit sweeps really blow...

posted by timekeeper on July 1, 2002 08:17 PM

9th Circuit often gets it wrong

This article in the New York Times is a discussion about the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the source of the Pledge of Allegiance ruling earlier this week.

The Ninth Circuit has a history of issuing rulings that are overturned by the Supreme Court. In 1996, for example, the 9th was overturned 24 times, 16 of which were UNANIMOUS, which is a startling statistic (Scalia and Stevens agreeing with each other is a sign that the apocalypse is upon us).

The article discusses the possible reasons for the high reversal rate. Ideology is a factor㬍 of the 23 judges were appointed by Democratic presidents, and it is by far the most liberal of the appeals courts. However, it is also the largest of the courts by far, and there have been proposals to divide it into two or more new circuits. Its unwieldy size means that often the various judges don't have the time to read the large number of cases decided by the circuit, which creates confusion and randomness.

(Although it is not mentioned in the article, part of the problem regarding dividing the court up involves Arizona. Arizona does not want to be in the same court as California, but the proposals that have surfaced so far lump Arizona and Nevada in with California, and a proposal that would have put Arizona in with the Pacific Northwest states is regarded as not feasible because of the geographical discontinuity.)

posted at 07:49 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Thoughts on the Pledge

Something struck me while sifting through the electronic equivalent of reams of paper expended on the whole Pledge of Allegiance thing. Almost all of the opponents of the "Under God" phrase ask how the supporters would feel about substituting any number of other deities, usually leading off with "Allah".

I cannot speak for anyone else, but "Allah", "God", and "Yahweh" or "Jehovah" are ALL THE SAME GOD. Different languages have different words to express the same concept, and this is no different. Christianity takes the "Yahweh" of the Jews, and adds the concept of him returning to Earth in human form. Islam recognizes the same Jesus as a prophet of "Allah", while Mohammed is their spiritual leader. Reconciling the beliefs of these three religions (along with the Deist/Unitarian concept of a single God, and some variations on a theme, such as Mormonism) is not at all difficult. I certainly have no problem with the idea.


I am of the belief that the phrase "under God" does not violate the first amendment, as the original lawsuit claims. Even more tenuous is the grounds upon which the lawsuit rests, that the rights of the daughter are violated by having to listen to her classmates recite "under God". Firstly, since nobody is compelled to recite the pledge, there is little coercion involved. I remember several classmates who refused to recite the pledge, and it was a non-issue. If she is teased by her classmates, so be it. She should be willing to stand up for what she believes in, regardless of the consequences. There is no constitutional protection from heckling. By prohibiting the pledge, a chilling effect on free speech occurs (I won't scream censorship, but the effect is similar).


As Jane Galt touched upon in her post on the subject (check the comments), a slippery slope effect is likely to occur now, as any concept that might be rooted in a religious or anti-religious context is likely to be subjected to a lawsuit. An obvious example is scientific theories such as the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution. History, such as the Crusades, the Colonization of the Americas (many were religious dissidents), the slavery abolition movement, and the current Arab/Israeli conflict might become political footballs in an effort to score political points. Music—should classics such as the "Messiah" or "Ave Maria" be taught, due to the religious background of the pieces? Of course, we can't forget school libraries, which are already a battleground with both the left (advocating banning books such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn due to racist language) and the right (who wish to ban books by Judy Blume, because of a mention of female onanism—look it up—in Deenie and some theological doubts in Are you there, God? It's me, Margaret) attempting to control the contents of the libraries. The ruling handed down by the Ninth Circuit Court is only going to intensify efforts on both sides, and the swift and overwhelming response by the Senate (with their 99-0 vote to oppose the ruling) is likely to cause a backlash the plaintiff neither anticipated nor desires.

(30 June/12:45—Edited to foil search engine perverts)

posted at 02:22 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 28, 2002

ISP woes

My posting level has been very low for the past few days.

Because I live in a fairly isolated area, I have only one access number in my local area for my ISP (AT&T Worldnet). This number has not worked very well for the past few days. I get low connection speeds, if I can connect. When I do connect, service is very unstable. (A comment at another blog earlier tonight was interrupted by disconnects twice). In addition, I cannot send e-mail, because it is all routed through the worldnet e-mail server.

Hopefully, the problem will be fixed soon, and I will be posting more often. The weekend is usually my most prolific posting time, and I have a lot to say about the court decisions of the past week.

posted at 10:25 PM | permalink | Comments (2)

I have problems with my ISP when it rains. It's probably the lousy weather protection on the phone wires and switch in the area.

posted by Laurence Simon on June 29, 2002 08:47 AM

It *has* been raining here, but this is the Pacific Northwest. It *always* rains here. I would think that they would take measures to ensure uninterrupted service, if they know that certain weather conditions are prevalent.

Then again, I am trying to apply logic to a business that is not known for making intelligent customer service choices.

posted by Timekeeper on June 29, 2002 08:58 PM

Sweatshops or salvation?

Nicholas Kristof had a column on Tuesday that appears to have been missed by most of the big bloggers. Outside of one paragraph, a gratuitous swipe at conservatives that could have been easily omitted without weakening the article, it is something that could have been written in National Review or Reason. The subject: Sweatshops. The point: They're better than nothing, which would be the prospects the workers had without the factories. A sample:

[B]efore you spurn a shirt made by someone like 8-year-old Kamis Saboor, an Afghan refugee whose father is dead and who is the sole breadwinner in the family, answer this question: How does shunning sweatshop products help Kamis? All the alternatives for him are worse.

(This ties in very loosely with a post of mine from 7 June, with a quote from ExxonMobil's chairman, discussing the benefits of globalization.)

posted at 08:05 AM | permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Live from the WTC—A daily read

Live From the World Trade Center is blessed with an erudite hostess, "Jane Galt", but her readers (and she has many) are one of the reasons her blog is a daily visit for me.

She currently has two posts that have generated a truly impressive series of comments. The first discusses Worldcom's spectacular flameout, and the second discusses the 9th Circuit Court's decision on the Pledge of Allegiance. The second thread has views from all over the spectrum, and might be the most comprehensive set of arguments on the web over the decision.

A third thread has not received a whole lot of attention yet, but will probably explode tomorrow, as more people see what she has written, and add their comments to the mixture.

If you haven't been to her site yet, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

posted at 08:46 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

The left speaks (arf)

Before I moved to the Western Washington area, I believed that San Francisco had the most stupid, reflexively liberal newspaper readers in the country. After reading the letters to the editor to the two local papers (particularly the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the liberal paper run by the big corporation), I think that Seattle has them beat. Consider the following three letters to the editor in today's PI (names have been removed, although they can be found at the bottom of this page.

George W. Bush has called for a democratic Palestinian state, even though no other Arab state in the Middle East is a democracy. Is Bush stupid or is he simply setting the Palestinians up to fail?

Democracy is an unfair burden? This sounds more like a shortcoming of Arabic statesmen rather than Bush. It's not a shortcoming of Islam, since Turkey is a democracy (although they are not Arabic), as is Malaysia (also not Arabic).

In his latest proclamation, President Bush says to gain U.S. support for a "provisional" state, Palestinians must democratically elect new leadership without ties to terrorism. It's sad that he didn't call for replacement of Ariel Sharon, the leader of this century's most flagrant state-sponsored terrorism.
While neglecting the security and prosperity needs of his own people, Bush has spent his time trying to demonize the leaders of countries he dislikes and attempting to destabilize them, including supporting the temporary overthrow of Hugo Chavez the elected president of Venezuela.
The recent revelation that Bush and his arrogant cronies in Washington, D.C., have hatched a plot and given the CIA authority to try to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq comes as no surprise.
Bush repeatedly has threatened to depose Saddam. The rest of the world realizes it is necessary for all countries to make a good-faith effort to get along, respect the borders and rights of others and not meddle in their internal affairs.
Bush is not so enlightened. Although I don't approve of the conduct of many of the world leaders toward their neighbors and their own citizens, I do recognize that the Golden Rule is a universal law by which we all are judged. Bush would do well to learn the meaning of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," or expect to meet the same fate himself.
It is time to replace Bush with a democratically elected president, one who supports immediate emancipation of the enslaved Palestinian majority from their minority Zionist masters by implementing the original U.N. resolutions calling for separate Palestinian and Israeli states with the borders defined in those resolutions.

Sharon is a source of "state-sponsored terrorism" only if you believe that defending one's country—against people who shoot 5 year olds, blow themselves up in pizzerias, and use ambulances to transport explosives—is "state-sponsored terrorism". The moral equivalence in that passage repulses me; it is utterly wrong.

The US did not attempt to destabilize Venezuela; the Venezuelans were able to accomplish that all by themselves. As for demonizing leaders Bush does not like, I don't recall warm greetings from Cuba, North Korea, Iran, or Sudan any time recently. It's called politics.

The alleged CIA plot is hearsay. I can say that Thailand is going to invade Burma tomorrow, and get a cite as an "unnamed source", but that does not mean it is true. I could be cited as an "Unnamed military source", which would lend an air of authenticity to my claims, but it still doesn't make it true. Here's a tip: sometimes sources have an agenda of their own.

Bush is castigated for deciding that Saddam is hopeless, and that the rest of the world needs to get along, recognize internal borders, and not meddle in internal affairs of other countries.

Hmmm, the way Iraq is universally loved by its neighbors, and how they respected Kuwait's borders? How countries such as Pakistan, China, Vietnam, and Cuba have refrained from meddling in the affairs of other nations?

The last sentence lets the cat out of the bag. The writer manages to compress the contested election, anti-semitism, and a breathtaking ignorance of history into one tiny paragraph. Perhaps he failed to notice that the original partition plan was accepted only by the Jews; the Arabs rejected it. Since the original plan called for Jerusalem to be an international city, not a part of either nation, I doubt that the Arabs would accept it now.

King George has pronounced temporary provisional independence for the colonies provided that the rebel leader is expelled and new, less rebellious leaders are elected. The king prescribed leaders who are not tainted with the blood of rebellion who will be more cooperative and tolerant of foreign occupation. The king said in return he would eventually allow some independence and even provisional nationhood; that is, provided everything he wanted is done fully by the colonists as prescribed and for a really long time.
The colonists greeted this with incredulity. For a moment they just looked at one another and then they burst into a riot of laughter, followed by a withering fusillade directed at the king's messenger. Unfortunately, the messenger died of his wounds.

Another smug idiot who tries to equate terrorism with a struggle for independence. Dumping tea into a harbor is not the same as blowing up a bus full of teenagers; declaring independence is not the same as glorifying martyrdom; shooting at an army is not the same as infiltrating a settlement and slitting the throat of a 4 year old girl. If our nation's forefathers had employed the tactics used by the Palestinians, we would not have received support from France and Spain; they would have been repulsed by the savagery. Why should the current situation be any different?

posted at 05:21 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

No posts

There will be no posts tonight, as my internet connection is exceptionally unreliable (dropped three times while reading one article). Hopefully, this will not be a problem tomorrow.

posted at 07:03 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Krauthammer on statehood

Charles Krauthammer says it best—Statehood before peace will increase the violence.

Check it out.

posted at 05:51 PM | permalink | Comments (1)

Check out the Spinsters on this subject [link is at instapundit]. Statehood means that terrorist attacks are acts of war by Palestine against Israel, and the Israelis can treat the Palestinians like any other combatant nation. Instead of going into the cities, the Israelis will just line the artillery up outside the city limits and bombard the place until it falls like Jericho in the Old Testament. And we can tell Arafat when he complains, hey, you started it, guy.

posted by akaky akakyevich on June 27, 2002 04:40 PM

Scheer Watch

More idiocy from Robert Scheer. His most recent column:

Bush Overplays the Terror Card
It's 'unpatriotic' to say that corrupt business is ruining our economy.

Nobody has said this, nor can it be inferred from any statements from the administration. Scheer won't let this inconvenient fact deter him from implying that the Bush administration has said this, however; facts appear to be irrelevant when it comes to trying to tie Bush to scandal.

Has the war on terrorism become the modern equivalent of the Roman Circus, drawing the people's attention away from the failures of those who rule them? Corporate America is a shambles because deregulation, the mantra of our president and his party, has proved to be a license to steal. Yet to question our leaders' stewardship of the economy has been made to seem unpatriotic.

No, not unpatriotic. Stupid, perhaps, but not unpatriotic.

As to deregulation, Ted Kennedy led the charge for deregulation the airline industry, Fernand St. Germain (D-RI) was the point man for deregulating the S&L industry, and the California "deregulation" experiment was the baby of state Sen Steve Peace (D-El Cajon). While the GOP has been largely in favor of deregulation, they have had ample support from the other side of the aisle.

Although combating terrorism is of compelling importance—and should have been before Sept. 11—one is likely to be branded a nut for daring to suggest that the administration might be using current security threats as a smoke screen to obscure our floundering economy.

No, but one is likely to be branded a nut for using the struggling economy as a club to bash Bush on his foreign policy. Scheer has been equally critical of Bush's foreign policy and his domestic policy. In fact, I cannot recall Scheer ever saying ANYTHING positive about Bush.

Yet, after the miserable performance of the stock market these past five weeks, the forced resignations and indictments of corporate titans (not to mention the conviction of a top accounting firm), the humbling of the dollar and a rise in the trade gap, isn't it time to ask whether the war on terrorism isn't being milked as a convenient distraction? The question seems particularly relevant when our man in the White House has had close personal and financial ties to the company—Enron—whose demise is the most glaring symbol of the broad moral disarray of the nation's corporate culture.

Must remember to throw Enron in there. Never mind that there has been no indication that the Bush administration had any role in the Enron collapse (and in fact refrained from interceding during the company's implosion), Scheer will always attempt to work in Enron as a trope to prove the corroption of the Bushes.

Is there any doubt that the chicanery of Enron executives and that of a growing Who's Who of top CEOs has done more long-term damage to the U.S. economy than the efforts of anti-American terrorists? And while sending in the Marines to clean up the boardrooms is not feasible, we ought to wake up to the reality that business greed is subverting the American way of life—and hurting the image of American capitalism and democracy—more effectively than the ploys of any foreign enemy.

An assertion like that can be vociferously debated, considering that the repercussions of the WTC attack are still affecting New York City and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the country. In any case, the Bush administration had little to do with the Enron implosion; most of the illegal activity occurred during the Clinton Administration.

When even Martha Stewart is ethically suspect and her company's stock has plummeted—though not quite to the depths of Enron, Global Crossing, Tyco, Dynergy, Wal-Mart and Rite Aid—it is time to return to the wisdom of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Depression-era president who saved capitalism from itself.

I was not aware that Wal-Mart's stock had tanked; while it is about 10 dollars off of its 52 week high, it is also about 10 dollars above its 52 week low, and it's been fairly stable.

Martha's stock is already rebounding; while it was pounded last week (on rumours of her stock investments in other companies, not on the performance of her company) it rebounded sharply today, and is expected to continue rising.

Wealthy from birth, FDR had a healthy awareness of the tendency of the upper classes to destabilize society and even destroy themselves with their greed and hubris. Unlike Karl Marx, however, he believed the unraveling of capitalism was not inevitable if these excesses could somehow be corralled. Thus was born the idea of government regulation as the vital support structure for the powerful, fertile but unstable free market.

Marxism lite—private ownership, mixed with plenty of governmental interference. Sounds suspiciously like FASCISM to me.

I am overstating here to make a point. FDR (and undoubtedly Scheer) didn't advocate forceful suppression of their opponents, and didn't have the nationalistic overtones of fascist movements, but governmental control of private industry is a hallmark of fascism.

Unfortunately, greedy people and institutions don't like being monitored, and they have the means to corrupt governments and skirt laws.
Since the so-called Reagan Revolution, powerful corporate interests have succeeded in profoundly damaging the foundation of a properly regulated economy. Company auditors, for example, have become accomplices to deceptions of the public that should be considered criminal but that often do not violate statutes written by corporate lobbyists.

A "properly regulated economy"—somehow I suspect that Scheer's idea of a properly regulated economy is one like most of the more socialized countries of the EU. It's too bad for him that the rest of the country does not share his enthusiasm for state-mandated micromanagement, and the growth and unemployment penalties that are part of the package.

Enron provides a startling illustration of a company jumping through loopholes that its D.C. lobbyists have created. In fact, the Enron scams made possible by deregulation in the first Bush administration are still being revealed, such as last week's reports that the company hid billions in income during the California energy crisis while publicly denying it was profiting excessively.
Yet former Enron officials continue to play an important role under Bush the younger. The Bush family, in fact, has never been seriously confronted by the media or Congress as to its questionable ties to former Enron Chief Executive Kenneth Lay, a close family friend and top contributor to Bush family presidential campaigns.

What is he smoking? Bush is constantly portrayed as a slave to Enron and the oil industry. There have been numerous attempts to prove Bush has been guilty of malfeasance, but because Bush did nothing illegal, they have not been able to produce any evidence.

In what way are Bush's ties to Lay questionable? Bush isn't allowed to have friends? Or he's not allowed to have friends who are doing illegal stuff? I seem to remember a few of Clinton's friends who had some legal trouble—Bill and Susan MacDougall, Webster Hubbell, Charlie Trie.

To be fair, the corporate corruption of our political system has long been bipartisan. The Clinton White House, for example, sponsored major deregulation acts, including the Financial Services Modernization Act, which reversed consumer protections enacted under Roosevelt, and the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which effectively ended all public accountability for the communications industry and has permitted a few media giants to gobble up vast markets.

I cannot comment on the FSMA, as I am not familiar with it. However, I fail to see where the deregulation of the telecom market has hurt consumers. The fact that quite a number of telecom companies have gone under indicates that the competition in the field in fierce, and profit margins are scarce. Consumers are looking for a bigger, better deal, and companies that attempt to gouge their customers will get bloodied. The fact that consumers can now choose which company will provide them with local phone service (as opposed to the state-mandated geographical monopolies of the past) is a triumph of the free market, not a shortcoming.

Clearly, the problem is bipartisan when a Democrat-controlled Senate moves so hesitantly to confront the myriad examples of sickness in our economy and corporate culture.
The politicians hesitate to act because candidates of both parties are lavishly financed by the very people who are conning a gullible public.

And a beautiful finish, as we segue into a call for more campaign finance reform. Is this going to be the topic of his next column?

posted at 05:20 PM | permalink | Comments (1)

The Financial Services Modernization Act dropped some of the governmental barriers between banks and securities dealers and insurance companies, allowing them to merge or to pool interests. A side effect of the FSMA is all those privacy-notice letters from banks and credit-card issuers and the like; since there are now many more joint ventures and whatnot, a lot more personal information is being circulated, and the law requires you to be notified that everything about you is up for grabs. There is a limited opt-out provision, which critics say is essentially meaningless.

posted by CGHill on June 26, 2002 09:19 AM

Blog Ecosphere update

The new list is out, and I'm nowhere to be found. What's worse, my old blog fell over the side as most of the people who have listed me have changed their links to the new URL. Hopfully I'll be on next week's list (with the new URL).

I'm still getting a fair number of hits that have come from the Regurgablog site, which means that I'm probably missing out on traffic from people who aren't going to play linkfrog to get here.

posted at 05:09 AM | permalink | Comments (4)

you can set it up so that your blogspot site automatically redirects people here . . .

posted by Kevin Holtsberry on June 25, 2002 06:16 AM

Sorry chief. Send me a reminder email and I'll make sure you get on next weeks run at this address...


posted by N.Z. Bear on June 25, 2002 02:45 PM

If you want, I can put up a splash page redirect with your new logo like I did at Tony's old Blogspot address. E-mail me if you want it!

posted by robyn on June 25, 2002 07:26 PM

Thanks, Robyn! The redirect looks great and works like a champ!

Kevin--if Robyn had not have come to my rescue, I would have been stuck, as I have no idea how to set up a redirect. I can do basic HTML, and even a few nifty tricks, but anything that requires scripting is over my head.

posted by Timekeeper on June 25, 2002 08:47 PM

Monday, June 24, 2002

Low-impact Farming

I saw this post over at Cut on the Bias, and I felt a response coming on. This was big enough for a full post, though, so I ran it here.

Susanna points out the sacrifices in quality of life that must be made (a spartan lifestyle, coupled with more people working more hours on the farms to provide food), and one of her readers points out that more land would need to be dedicated to farming. It is this last upon which I wish to elaborate, because very few people realize just what type of increase of which we are speaking.

(Much of this material comes from The Skeptical Environmentalist, by Bjørn Lomborg. I have done a lot paraphrasing, but most of the research is his. The information on psoralen and on GE rice was stuff I had read elsewhere; I cannot recall the exact source. The information on raspberries was from an article in last month's Seattle Times, which does not appear to be online.)

A Danish governmental study released in 1999 revealed that a total ban on pesticides (equivalent to the Amish refusal to use them) would reduce yields by 16-84 percent, with a resultant price increase of 30-120 percent. In addition, the cost of phasing in a ban (in Denmark) was estimated to carry a price tag of $1 Billion per year. This covers *just* produce for human consumption; if food for animal feed is included, the cost increases to $3.5 Billion/year.

Regarding fungicides, an 1994 article in Science magazine points out

Were synthetic fungicides not available, experts have said that production of apples would be reduced 40 percent, grapes 33 percent, peaches 49 percent, and strawberries 38 percent. Production of most vegetables would also be decreased.

(Another consideration for banning fungicides in the potential for poisoning. Celery, when exposed to some fungi, synthesizes a compound called psoralen, which is a skin irritant and has been proved carcinogenic to humans. Treating celery with fungicides virtually eliminates the danger of psoralen exposure).

Modern irrigation techniques also improve yields㬤 percent of the Earth's food comes from irrigated land, which comprises 18 percent of the total agricultural land mass.

Modern high-yield crops (genetically engineered, albeit by more conventional methods, yet genetically modified all the same) have resulted in increased yields, shorter growth time (which can allow for multiple harvests of the same crop), and increased nutrient yield. Similarly, cows produce twice as much milk as in the 1930's. "Golden Rice" adds vitamin A to rice, with the potential to save 2 million children's lives a year, and to preserve the eyesight of 500,000 more. Experimental research with raspberries here in Washington has revealed that with a properly regulated environment, raspberries can produce harvests up to seven times a year, without weakening the plants or producing substandard fruit.

All of these techniques, shunned by the Amish and their Luddite proponents, have radically increased the amount of food produced by a plot of land. To maintain production at these levels without the modern benefits would not be possible, as there simply is not enough suitable land to plant or raise livestock. That is the dirty little secret the activists don't want to reveal.

posted at 06:04 PM | permalink | Comments (3)

While the information in your post may be correct, I am leery of Mr. Lomborg. His eagerness to discredit the environmental community has far overshadowed any truth that may be evident in his work.

That aside, the information in your post suggests that, yes, some technological advances have extended land productivity for now. Unfortunately, any effort to force marginal land into an artificial level of productivity is a short term solution at best, as this land becomes exhausted with few rotations. For example, while they extoll the incredible production of the Washington raspberries, they don't address the toll that level of production would have on the soil.

Frankly, the best solution for reducing the strain on the earth is to reduce human populations (in North America at least)- not by shooting anyone, just laying off on the procreation. The amount of productivity required to keep our lifestyle going is outrageous. Maybe if we had smaller families, ate less meat and used more local products, we wouldn't be forced to use artifical means to elevate productivity.

The N.Am. way of life, if practiced by everyone on earth, would require 5 planets to support it. Maybe we need to reassess our demands on the planet, instead of how to prod it past its natural limit.

posted by treefen on June 25, 2002 10:13 AM

Have you actually read his book? He is not a Danish James Watt, eager to pave over the forests and kill all the whales to hang over the fireplace. His research was originally an effort to refute statements made by the late Julian Simon in an interview in Wired magazine. Lomborg was startled to discover that many of the unquestioned statements of the environmentalist movement were false, either through outright lying, manipulation of data to support a theory, or wild speculation. He supports most of the agenda of the green movement, but it is tempered by a cold hard look at the facts.

You discuss how repeated plantings deplete the soil. That is the purpose of fertilizer; with proper fertilization and sufficient water, plants can grow in sand, in water (hydroponics), on concrete(this was demonstrated by a grass fertilizer manufacturer in the 70's), or any number of hostile environments. Fertilizer, whether manure, other natural fertilizers, or synthetics, will provide nutrients that the land itself cannot provide.

You mention the "North American" way of life, and state that if everyone practiced it, would require five planets to support it. Could you elaborate upon that? I want to know exactly what you mean by a somewhat vague statement.

posted by Timekeeper on June 25, 2002 06:05 PM

As for cutting down on procreation -- I was unaware that North America was undergoing a gigantic population boom. The last I heard was that the rate of population growth here had levelled off and that we were in danger of ending up with an aged population with not enough younger people to support them.

posted by Andrea Harris on June 26, 2002 07:49 PM

Sunday, June 23, 2002

As the Stomach Turns

Pejman, go to your room.

Mark, go to your room.

The two of you may come out when you agree to be civil to one another.

Brooke, take a Xanax. Don't give up.

Geez, the internet is morphing into usenet.

posted at 04:59 PM | permalink | Comments (5)


(When do we get to start mentioning the c*b*l? Or Kibo?)

posted by Asparagirl on June 23, 2002 09:34 PM

Don't go there.


posted by Timekeeper on June 23, 2002 10:08 PM

I thought it was morphing into high school, myself.

posted by Ken Goldstein on June 23, 2002 10:28 PM

Must be something in the water. Have you seen the Den Beste / Eric Olsen dustup?

posted by Christopher Kanis on June 24, 2002 06:16 AM

Kegger? At the Moon Tower? I'm sooooo there, dudes.

posted by Jeff G. on June 24, 2002 10:40 PM

Redefining Gridlock

This Washington Times editorial gives the real numbers on the senate's inexcusable inaction on Bush nominees for judicial posts.

A sample statement:

During his first year in office, Mr. Bush made 32 percent more appeals court nominations than his three predecessors' average, yet his confirmation rate was more than 70 percent less. And this disparity continues into his second year, with just three appeals court nominees confirmed all year and none in two months.

There's all sorts of juicy goodness in the article. Read it, and then pressure your senators (especially if they are Democrats) to stop stalling.

posted at 10:40 AM | permalink | Comments (0)


I'm waiting to see the outrage from the Democratic Party over this headline.

Global Crossing Is Accused of Shredding Documents

After all, they were furious when Enron did the same thing.

posted at 09:32 AM | permalink | Comments (0)

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