Friday, August 10, 2007
President of the Florida Senate loses a son
The President of the Florida Senate is a Republican by the name of Ken Pruitt. As with so many of his peers, he made a name for himself by supporting the "family values" of racism, sexism, and authoritarianism.
By one account, in 1996 as a state legislator he "signed a petition condemning Walt Disney World Company for extending health benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian employees." When confronted by two of his gay constituents, "Pruitt reportedly made several derogatory remarks about blacks and homosexuals."
In January 2006 Pruitt rose to his lofty post of Senate President. Columnist Steve Bousquet wrote,
The next president of the Florida Senate has heads spinning after mailing an incendiary fundraising letter accusing "liberals in the Florida Senate" of targeting the Pledge of Allegiance and the Boy Scouts.
The letter to reliable Republican donors is called a "Protect American Values Petition Drive." Pruitt wants to blanket the Senate with
1-million"emergency petitions" to save Florida from "the ACLU, liberal extremists, the anti-God left and liberal judges" who essentially are out to destroy America.
In his letter, Pruitt calls himself "a rock-solid conservative Republican."
In 2004 during the Bush campaign, he really pulled out the stops. Chris Suellentrop reported—
"I want you to stand, raise your right hands," and recite "the Bush Pledge," said Florida state Sen. Ken Pruitt. The assembled mass of about 2,000 in [Port St. Lucie, Florida] dutifully rose, arms aloft, and repeated after Pruitt: "I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."
Now Pruitt's son and namesake is dead from an apparent overdose after returning to a friend's home in Tallahassee from a night out at a gay bar. He had been married but was divorced for over a year.
According to Michael C. Bender,
In Port St. Lucie, several people remembered Mr. Pruitt as a well-mannered young man who helped with his father's campaigns, even while living with his mother in another city.
"He wasn't always in the picture as much as Ken's other children, but they seemed very close," said Sharon Kelly-Brown, who worked on Pruitt's campaigns....
The cognitive dissonance that Pruitt's son experienced must have been enormous. No wonder he drank.
I feel sorry for Pruitt's son. I feel sorry for Senator Pruitt. But he is not the only person who has stood, or stands, to lose a son. I hope that in honor of his namesake he will do his best to ensure that not one more person in the State of Florida suffers from the state-sponsored bigotry of which he has been such an avid proponent.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Market Intervention of the Day
On Thursday, the European Central Bank (ECB) said that it had pumped 95 billion euros [130 billion dollars] into the eurozone banking market to allay fears about a sub-prime credit crunch as lending slowed. The move represented the ECB's single largest intervention in the banking sector since the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the US in 2001. —BBC in "Mortgage concerns hit US markets"
I know you hate to see interventions in the "free market" as much as I do. Workers' wages should float, and they should have health care only if they can afford it or if there's a shortage of labor and they need to be kept alive. But with the worsening "credit crunch" (all the fault of the working class defaulting on their mortgages, let me add), some people stand to lose a lot of money if the government doesn't step in.
The European market indexes have been declining, much like the NASDAQ, Dow Jones and S&P. Apparently some unwise Europeans were dabbling in the American sub-prime market and got burnt—
The latest trigger for the slump was an announcement by French bank BNP Paribas that it was suspending three investment funds worth 2bn euros (£1.35bn) [$2,738 million] because of problems with the US sub-prime mortgage sector.
Now investors are afraid there's not enough money to keep the Monopoly game going. How to finance those leveraged buyouts and mergers? It's getting so bad that the only way you can borrow money is to have money, and what's the point of that?
There also were reports that the US Federal Reserve was doing something similar to ensure that there was enough cash available for banks to use.
President Bush is expecting a "soft landing" for the markets. Consider the source.
The demand for the Federal Reserve to "do something" is heating up. "We have Armageddon." Don't miss this video.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Little Shop of Horrors: Get ready to puke
The police do not have enough weapons in their arsenal against the population, and besides, new toys are always welcome. Now the government is supporting work on the "LED Incapacitator" or "lightsaber." Fox News has called it the "puke saber" or the "barf-beamer."
Funded for development by a Homeland Security contract with Intelligent Optical Systems, this nifty little device currently looks like a flashlight and works by—
simultaneously overwhelming the subject both physiologically (temporarily blinding him) and psychophysically (disorienting him). A built-in rangefinder measures the distance to the nearest pair of eyeballs. Then, a “governor” sets the output and pulse train (a series of pulses and rests) to a level, frequency, and duration that are effective, but safe. The colors and pulses continuously change, leaving no time for the brain or eyes to adapt.
The first phase of development has demonstrated the "proof of concept"—i.e., that it works. Now it's on to the universities—
This fall, in Phase 2, researchers at Pennsylvania State University will test the LED Incapacitator on volunteers at the school’s Institute of Nonlethal Defense Technology. Intelligent Optical Systems will use the test results to evaluate design features and tweak the strobe’s pattern and colors. “There’s one wavelength that gets everybody,” says Lieberman. “Vlad calls it the evil color.” Further tests are scheduled for the fall, and production could begin by December.Phase 3 will attempt to make the instrument "short and svelte as a D-cell Maglite, designed to fit on a duty belt."
Scaling up for "mobs" is comparatively easy—
Output and size can easily be scaled up to fit the need; immobilizing a mob, for instance, might call for a wide-angle “bazooka” version.
This should complement the Air Force's microwave ray gun nicely.
And how about seizures?
The barf-beamer has been proven to nauseate. But from the weapon's description it seems to me highly likely that it will trigger seizures (known as the "photoconvulsive response") in a certain percentage of those who are vulnerable, children and teens included.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who recently suffered a seizure attributed to epilepsy, might make an excellent candidate for testing the safety of the device. Of course if Roberts is used and suffers no ill effects, we should avoid drawing any firm conclusions until the possibility that he suffers from simple demonic possession rather than from epilepsy can be ruled out.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
How do you spell "avarice"? M-c-D-o-n-a-l-d-s
McDonald's has been caught paying workers below the Chinese minimum wage, which, as in the U.S., can vary according to locale. A little below? No, in some cases by almost half.
McDonald's became embroiled in a public controversy in April, when Chinese newspapers reported it was paying some part-timers far below local minimums -- for example, 4 yuan (52 cents) an hour in the big southern city of Guangzhou, or just over half the city's minimum.
Chinese unions have also criticized the wage policies of Yum! Brands Inc.'s Pizza Hut and KFC, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc. last year let Chinese staff join unions after criticism that it exploited low-paid workers.
McDonald's is going to fix the problem—
From next month, McDonald's will increase workers' pay to levels 12 to 56 percent above local minimum wages, McDonald's China spokesman George Gu said.
He declined to be more specific about the rises....
The pay rise will not hurt the profitability of McDonald's in China and the company has no near-term plans to increase its food prices, Gu said.
And unions too!
The company will also introduce more incentive and training programs for its 50,000 staff in China, and aims to have all workers unionize by the end of this year, compared with 80 percent now, he added.
Well, isn't that just dandy! Maybe it's time to consider a union for its U.S. workers.
McDonald's has over 800 restaurants in China and plans to open 100 more every year.
Could McDonald's be part of the answer to the Sino-American trade imbalance? As Chinese consumption of McDonald's food grows, not only will it help keep their population in check, it will also open up an enormous market for American anti-cholesterol drugs, diabetes medications and countless other medical adjuncts that only our peerless system of healthcare can supply.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Proud Heritage of the Day
When Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., recently ridiculed a provision on the House floor to spend $100,000 on a prison museum near Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kan., jumped to promote her district's heritage. Leavenworth County, she boasted, had more prisons than any other county in America.
PBS recently premiered the documentary "Prison Town USA" on P.O.V. As employment in rural areas disappears, prisons have become the economic salvation of smaller counties. According to the PBS webpage,
[I]n rural America ..., during the 1990s, a prison opened every 15 days. The United States now has the dubious distinction of incarcerating more people per capita than any other country in the world. Yet this astonishing jailing of America has been little noted because many of the prisons have opened in remote areas like Susanville. "Prison Town, USA" examines one of the country's biggest prison towns, a place where a new correctional economy encompasses not only prisoners, guards and their families, but the whole community.
You can think of it as a welfare-to-work program for those who agree to support uniformed authority.
A bit of good news for the felons of Washington State (3/31/06)
Appalling Week 3 - The lighter side (5/30/06)
Addiction of the Day (8/30/06)
Statistic of the Day (9/13/06)
A system run amok (1/4/07)
John Edwards on the proper relationship between religion and government
This Q&A took place in the YouTube debate among Democratic Presidential candidates on July 23, 2007—
QUESTION: I'm Reverend Reggie Longcrier. I'm the pastor of Exodus Mission and Outreach Church in Hickory, North Carolina.
Senator Edwards said his opposition to gay marriage is influenced by his Southern Baptist background. Most Americans agree it was wrong and unconstitutional to use religion to justify slavery, segregation, and denying women the right to vote.
So why is it still acceptable to use religion to deny gay American their full and equal rights?
EDWARDS: I think Reverend Longcrier asks a very important question ... whether it's right for any of our faith beliefs to be imposed on the American people when we're president of the United States. I do not believe that's right.
COOPER: I should also point out that the reverend is actually in the audience tonight....
Reverend, do you feel he answered your question?
QUESTION: Not like I would like to have heard it...
COOPER: All right, there's 30 seconds more. Why is it OK to quote religious beliefs when talking about why you don't support something? That's essentially what's his question.
EDWARDS: It's not. I mean, I've been asked a personal question which is, I think, what Reverend Longcrier is raising, and that personal question is, do I believe and do I personally support gay marriage?
The honest answer to that is I don't. But I think it is absolutely wrong, as president of the United States, for me to have used that faith basis as a basis for denying anybody their rights, and I will not do that when I'm president of the United States.
Edwards is a "mainstream" Methodist and, unlike the current occupant of the Oval Office, seems to be a believer somewhat in the mold of Jimmy Carter. I was pleased to read—
Nor has Edwards won over conservative Christian evangelicals. His record in support of abortion rights and gay rights -- he supports civil unions but opposes same-sex marriages -- makes him unacceptable to some on the religious right. After analyzing Edwards' record and statements, Faith and Action, a conservative Washington-based Christian group, concluded on its Web site that Edwards might have been sustained by his faith but he was not "an Evangelical nor any kind of traditionalist."
If the Religious Right won't count him among the flock, that's good enough for me. Praise Jesus!