Radically Inept
Saturday, March 20, 2004
  A truly sad commentary by Letterman. Not my favorite, in fact, I often find Letterman hard to watch, not my brand of humor, but his top ten lists have on average been very good. Via: INTEL DUMP:

"On Scalia's Recusal Refusal

For a serious report on the issue, see this New York Times article by Steve Twomey, complete with a link to Justice Scalia's memo. For a more skeptical treatment of the issue, see Je Refuse! by Slate's Dahlia Lithwick. And finally, for a humorous (yet realistic) treatment, see last night's Top Ten list from David Letterman:

Top Ten Signs Your Supreme Court Justice Is On The Take

10. Begins every case with, 'We'll start the bribing at ten thousand.'

9. His written opinions always have several mentions of the thirst-quenching taste of Mountain Dew.

8. Regularly convenes court at the dog track.

7. Asks, 'Does either attorney plan on inviting me on any hunting trips?'

6. For a Supreme Court Justice he certainly is mentioned on 'The Sopranos' a lot.

5. All the bling bling.

4. His last article in the 'Law Journal' was about finding the right fence for your stolen goods.

3. When you have a meeting with him in chambers, frisks you for a wire.

2. He's on the Forbes 500 List between Bill Gates and Oprah.

1. Already declared Bush the winner of the November election." 
Friday, March 19, 2004
  Here's a site I may wind up linking to, but let me keep an eye on it for a few days first. They have some of the coolest retro graphics for a blog I've seen though. Wish I could magically do html, but having to learn how to add graphics and stuff is something I don't have time for right now. Well, alright, I'm not willing to make time for. Here's the site:

Long story; short pier: We are so fucked some more. 
  Oh, I did actually put a new post over at the sister blog: Rogue Analyst

Some of you may find it of interest. It's all about games and sports. 
  I meant to comment here on Dennis Miller's new gig as a Rush wannabe on a supposed news network, but wound up venting here:

lies.com: Dennis Miller: Um, Why, Exactly?: "You know, I used to watch him on SNL, too. And, then he had some show on one of the networks (not sure which, but not Hobo), and I kept hoping he would either get better material, or would work on his delivery. He wasn't that great, but back then he seemed sorta likeable. But, I recently tuned in to his show on FOX, and I have to agree with you. He's just lame. It's like 'I hate this job, but I need the money' kind of work. It's not really entertaining, and it most certainly isn't funny. It doesn't even reach the level of amusing.
And, John F has got a point, and maybe it is this political shift to the right that has sucked whatever charm his schtick used to have, and left a mean little man in its place. Maybe his oxycotin supplier got busted in an Ashcroft sting, and his going cold turkey on national television.
Whatever it is, I'm certainly not watching anymore. It's too depressing"

The good thing about linking the to the post, is I get to re-edit and make myself sound a little more articulate. 
  Please. This can't be real.

The New Republic Online: Iraq'd: "IRONY IS FOR SUCKERS:

'In a morning meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Bremer warned the Iraqi leaders that they risked isolating themselves and their country if they continued to snub the United Nations.' -- today's New York Times"

  Added another blog link today, Roger Ailes, I liked what I read, and I think the disclaimer "Not Affiliated With The Crooks and Liars in The Republican Party", really earned big points with me.

I had to go back and check my disclaimer. I hope I have to change it some time in January of '05. 
Thursday, March 18, 2004
  Okay, I getting ready to go to my American Legion meeting, but I had to post this.

Cud-chew, of "Cud-chew and Crammer", made one of his appearances on the Closing Bell on MSNBC. This guy is such a shill for the administration and corporate Amerika, he makes me sick. Anyway, he now says that the stock market reflects our success in the war on terror. He stated that not only is the stock market a barometer for the health of our economy and the strength of the business sector, it also factors in the war on terror because people who feel secure at home will invest more. This guy is completely Mickey Mouse! I suppose the entire economy can go to hell, but if we feel secure from terrorists, the stock market will rise? He is completely inane. So, if we capture Bin Laden we'll see new record highs in the market...Yeah, for all of one day. Until any smart investor takes a look at the PE ratios and other business fundamentals, and decides where to put his money based on the potential for returns on his investment.

I will come back to Cud-chew later... 
  Wow, I think I'm starting to get the hang of how to use the blog icon on my Google tool bar!

Anyway, found this link via (where else?)Eschaton:

Yahoo! News - Purported Al Qaeda Letter Calls Truce in Spain:

"An unrelated videotape of a man describing himself as al Qaeda's European military spokesman also claimed responsibility for the Madrid bombing, saying it was in retaliation for outgoing Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's domestically-unpopular support for the U.S.-led Iraq war.
In a shock election result three days after the Madrid bombs, Spain voted in the Socialist party, which has since said it will probably withdraw its troops from Iraq.
'The Spanish people... chose peace by choosing the party that was against the alliance with America,' the statement said.
The statement said it supported President Bush (news - web sites) in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry (news - web sites), as it was not possible to find a leader 'more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom.'
In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:
'Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization.'
'Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected.' "

Well, I for one will fight to ensure our country does not appease the terrorists. If the terrorists want Bush re-elected, then we must vote against Bush! 
  I've added a few links today. These are some blogs that I tend to visit regularly, so I felt I should probably just go link them from here. I added MaxSpeak, Talking Points Memo and Kevin Drum's (formerly CalPundit) new site over at Washington Monthly.

I also finally got around to removing the link to Shock and Awe, though Kynn had announced he was shutting it down sometime last month. 
  Wow. I guess sometimes I don't pay as much attention to legal subtleties as I should. I didn't know the federal government could fire a person based on their sexual orientation: Gay News From 365Gay.com

I know about the military's don't ask, don't tell policy, but after reading all the 'equal opportunity employer' quotes in every ad for federal employment, I didn't realize that equal opportunity was only for heterosexuals.
I guess I'll wait to see how the courts deal with the first suit filed by someone fired based on their sexual orientation. 
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
  I'm sure a lot of you have seen this, but for those who haven't: MoveOn.org: Democracy in Action "caughtonvideo".

I think it proves that there is at least one member of the administration who can't dance. Rumsfeld was really good at being disdainful of the lowly masses, but he just can't dance. Now, Scott McCllellan (sp?) can dance. I'll try to remember to post some of Scott's best performances here. 
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
  From Eschaton comes a link to Iraq on the Record, from Rep. Henry Waxman. Nice work.

"A detailed report and accompanying searchable database released by Rep. Waxman identifies 237 specific misleading statements about the threat posed by Iraq made by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell, and National Security Advisor Rice in 125 separate public appearances."
  Okay, I don't remember who I should credit for this link. I had heard about TED Conferences before, but I hadn't followed up on the info until a blog recently pointed me to a link, which led me to this link:

TED Prize - About

For some strange, bizarre reason, surely reflective of some deep psychotic paranoia during a brief momentary lapse of an otherwise over bloated self-esteem, I almost didn't link to it. For shame on me, I know, but there was some twisted sense that my readers (there appear to be a few now, who are not just old friends and family), would out compete me to such a great prize. Hmmm, they say confession is good for the soul, I just sort of feel a little stupid. I don't think I'll do this again.

Anyway, the prize sure would be fun to win, and if I knew I could afford it next year, I'd certainly spend the $4k to attend, and whatever travel and hotel costs there were. This sounds like a grea event.

Oh, wait, that was the reason I didn't want to post this - pure, self-serving economics. If too many people were to go, I'd probably wind up in a cheap hotel 30 miles away from the event. Yeah. Yeeaah. That's the ticket. That's why I wasn't going to post the link.

Anyway, I also couldn't resist posting this link from their site (you will have to down load MacroMedia, if you don't already have it):

About TED

Hell, actually, there are a great deal of really neat links. You should just play around in the site, and you'll find lots of fantastic, creative people doing cool stuff.

  Link courtesy of 'winsome', yet another Eschaton/Atrios commenter.

The Memory Hole > Since 1997, More Than 22,000 People Have Deserted the US Army. Not much really all that surprising, just sort of interesting. 
  This will be a quick rant. I think. I just want to call for the shooting of the messenger. It has dawned on me that the only people who cry, "Don't shoot the messenger!", are, in fact, messengers. So, this call is completely self-serving, and I think we should ignore their screams of cowardice.

Okay, that was the set up. What I really want to know, is who the hell is Sean Hannity, and why does anyone listen to his gobbly-gook? He speaks knowingly of military operations. When was he in the military, which branch, and where did he serve? He speaks authoritatively on the economy. Where did he get his Ph.D. in economics? Or, maybe he got an MBA? Has he run a large business? Maybe his background is finance? I want to know!

I also want to know, "Who's he sleeping with outside of his marriage (I'm assuming he's married?)?" How much does he drink on a given day? What brand? Where does he hang out? Surely, his fan base would appreciate this type of information. I think we should set up a Sean Hannity Alert System, and anytime anyone anywhere sees Sean, that information should go in to a data base. Who's his dealer? What kind of car does he drive? In fact, we should 'vet' him with the scrutiny that the CIA looks at prospective agents. And, that goes for all these right wing twits.

And, I think in the pursuit of transparency, we should do this for all the people who are providing us with their opinions. Those hacks over at CNBC, Cud-chew and Crammer, who's footing the bill for their inane comments? And those guys must be on drugs! I've heard their 'economic/market projections', you can't tell me the numbers they quote aren't dreamed up by the corporations' PR departments. In fact, CNBC has turned into nothing more then a convenient shill for any CEO trying to build their numbers.

Come to think of it, that may be the real point of this rant: What happened to reporting the news? What happened to investigative reporting? I'm a news junky, but I can't seem to find any news across 80 channels. Who the hell cares if Affeck and Lopez split? That's worthy of time on a 'real' news program?! All I seem to find nowadays are pretty faces with empty minds, spouting worthless opinions based on I'm not sure what.

So, to some up the points of this rant (though, I'm not sure the 'rant form' requires summing):

1. Who are the people spouting their inane opinions on news shows. What are their backgrounds, and what's hiding in their closets?

2. What happened to the news? Where is it? Can it still be found?

  Well, here is an interesting site that provides a fairly extensive timeline for the events leading up to and occurring on 9/11, with each point sourced to a popular media publication: 9-11 Cover-ups Summary.

You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to enjoy the information; you can just attribute it to the total incompetence of this administration and the complete ineptness of the bureaucratic leadership of many of our government agencies. Though, I must say, the part about not getting planes scrambled in a timely manner on 9/11, whether the FAA and/or the air force were at fault, is inexcusable. I'd really like to see heads role over this. I can't believe the most powerful nation in the world left itself so vulnerable. Really, I just can't make myself believe it.

And, why didn't we have a rash of finger pointing? This is not normal. The head of the air force should be crying, "...that if only the FAA had warned us in a timely manner, we could have..." And the head of the FAA should be screaming, "we told those bozos over at the air force in plenty of time to..." That's the omission that bugs me the most; a lack of bureaucratic in-fighting and finger pointing. It's just not normal. Of course, it could be that they really are this incompetent, and they figure it's safer to just keep their mouths shut. A conspiracy of silence on the part of the inept, does somehow fit in with my opinion of this administration.

Anyway, they post. I link. You decide.

Found that link over at Cosmic Iguana - Voice of the Evil Doers. I got there because liked the name of the blog, and they appear to have a sense of humor. 
Monday, March 15, 2004
  Yet, another gem through KurzweilAI.net, New Scientist, "Robot builder could 'print' houses".

So much for bothering to learn the construction trade.
  Truly, I love getting the KurzweilAI.net newsltter. One more gem from this week's letter:

BW Online | March 15, 2004 | Physics: "Putting The Weirdness To Work" 
  This article, "Disembodied robotic arm clambers round home", from
New Scientist, is another great example of technology with the potential to put people out of work. In this case, it will reduce the need for homecare health workers.

I should point out that I am not a luddite. I welcome the new technology. My concern is how we adjust the socio-economic policy of our country to adapt to these changes. At one time, these advances were looked to as the road to an ideal world. One where people didn't have to do the mundane chores, and were left with free time to explore their own personal interests. However, under the conservative view currently popular with a large percentage of Americans, if you are not productively employed, you deserve no financial help nor health insurance from our government. This is the point which I think we must revisit, and in fact, develop some sort of policies that recognize a large population coexisting in a world where their labors are not 'needed'. The old utopian vision dealt with this by basically doing away with capitalism. Resources were deemed to become so plentiful, and their recovery so cheap and automated, that there was no need for an economic system as we currently have in place. We seem to be achieving one part of the utopian vision, but have no desire to free people from the corporate yoke. So, what are the alternatives? 
  Found this link DARPATech 2004 | Proceedings via INTEL DUMP. What I've seen so far is pretty interesting. I'll follow up on this after I've explored more of the content. It looks pretty extensive, so far. 
Sunday, March 14, 2004
  Jobs will continue to vanish I am going to post this at both sites, since I feel this works for both formats.

This may come across as a bit of a diatribe, and to some extent that is valid. Part of the invective that will come through in this piece is a direct result of the fact that I tried to post something similar to the blog on Friday, but it failed to post and I lost all of it in the ether. Part of it is the result of my long standing disdain for economists. My personal belief is that economists make a good sub-branch of history, but that they are so divorced from reality that their skills of prognostication are the equivalent of the daily horoscope - so general as to be worthless. Anyway, on with the show:

Many of the economists I have been reading lately have a serious tendency to use the terms 'productivity gains' and outsourcing as the explanations for our current economic doldrums. And, they are in fact correct, but they seem to truly fail to understand the magnitude of what is happening, and completely miss the point on what it means for the future. At least the ones that I have read; it may be that other economists are discussing this, and I have just missed their writings. I do not read every journal article. I don't have the time. But, the stuff published in the popular press is woefully inadequate.

First, let me take the term 'productivity gains' into more depth then is generally done, and do so by citing examples of which I have some personal knowledge. Much of the gains in productivity are not gains in productivity as the term seems to imply. They are in fact gains to a corporation's bottom line resulting from having employees work twice as much for the same wage. One example I can provide is a family member's recent experience at Home Depot. She made a very good salary working for Home Depot at the local corporate headquarters, but only if you thought she achieved this salary by working a 40-45 hour work week. She actually worked something on the order of 80-90 hours per week for this salary. What she had in reality was two jobs at a decent pay scale..maybe. I do not know what her salary was (she has since left the company, which I will come back to later), but for the sake of discussion, let's say it was $100,000 per year. Now many of us dream of making a six figure salary, but in this case, she was actually working the equivalent of two jobs at $50,000 per year. For a long time, I just thought she was an aberration, a workaholic, but I ran into another individual who works for Home Depot at an alumni function. I mentioned my family member's experience, and this person, who works at the corporate headquarters, stated that Home Depot has a reputation for burning out employees. This person said the average person stayed at Home Depot no more then 6 - 9 years. Now, as a statistic this may or may not prove true, but that is the perception among the small sampling I've done. So, this aspect of productivity gains is actually just changing your corporate culture form one of a team with camaraderie to one of a sweatshop with everyone sacrificing their personal lives out of fear of losing their jobs.

That is one side of the 'productivity gains', another is the direct result of technological advances that allow a worker to actually produce more within the same time frame. In this case, I will use another local corporation with which I have even more familiarity, and that is UPS. I worked for UPS for about two years, and I personally have no gripes with UPS, but recent technological advancements put in place in their distribution hubs and delivery cars provide excellent examples for this type of productivity gain. When I worked for UPS, a good loader on the line I worked could load between three to four cars during a 4-5 hour shift, depending on seasonal volume. Part of the work in loading the cars involved knowledge. The loader had to get to know where packages with particular addresses were to be place in the delivery car, so that the driver could efficiently run his route. Since it was difficult to remember every street address and their proper shelf location, charts were developed which the loader used as reference if he saw a new address, or simply forgot. At that time, UPS was investing a huge sum of money in information technology to make this system more efficient and to increase productivity. Their idea was that every package that came into the system should have a machine readable address (scanner readable), and that these scanners would be used to route an individual package throughout UPS's facilities. This included placing scanners on each of the delivery cars so that when the loader entered the car, the system would tell him exactly where in the car to place the package. Further, it would also provide information to the driver's 'board', informing the driver exactly how many packages were in the car, where they were located, and in what order he should deliver them. The board also provides information to the driver's managers on exactly when he had delivered a particular package to a particular address, increasing managements ability to hold drivers accountable for their time on the road (just a hair Orwellian, that).

UPS succeeded in doing exactly that. The system was not yet in place at the distribution center that I worked in when I left UPS, but has since been fielded there. I have a long time friend who still works there, and this new technology came up in a recent conversation. When I asked him about the effect of the new technology, he told me it allowed the loader to nearly double the number of cars that a loader could load during a shift, by taking all thought out of the process. While no one has lost a job due this innovation that he was aware of (it is a union job), do not expect your local UPS distribution center to hire new employees anytime soon. In fact, the volume of packages would have to rise to astronomical heights to put any hiring pressure on UPS at that center, and that center already operates at four times the capacity for which it was originally designed. This is the other side of 'productivity gains'; these the result of technology as opposed to longer working hours. But in both cases, there was no benefit to the employees, other then the opportunity to work harder for the same wage, and keep their job.

Here, I will give what many might consider short shrift to the problem of outsourcing, but this is because it is so much in the news, I do not believe I have anything constructive to add to this part of the dialogue. I just want to point out, that it is largely the result of technological improvements, especially information technology, which allows the outsourcing of jobs that Western countries are experiencing.

So, lets move on to what I believe supports my contention that most of the economists I've read, especially those representing our current administration, are missing the real point of all of this. There is no reason to expect jobs to come back, and there is every reason to expect job losses, not only to continue, but to accelerate over the next twenty years. Consider a very recent example of technological research that is currently in the news, which has the potential to eviscerate yet another area of domestic employment. The much ballyhooed attempt to develop automated fleets of vehicles for the US military. This is a congressionally mandated project, which requires the military to have a third of its fleets, non dependent upon human control. It is on the face of it, a very laudable goal, and if successful, it should save a great deal of lives. It will also have two other, much less discussed impacts. It will be so much easier to send our country to war, regardless of the reason for the war, if we can do so without suffering casualties. It will also put every trucker, delivery person and cab driver out of work. That may indeed sound hyperbolic, but I see no reason to doubt that conclusion. Once the technology is developed to the degree that a vehicle can operate completely independently, the costs of capital investment in that technology becomes anywhere affordable to corporations and the vehicles gain an acceptable safety level for use on public roads, the trucking industry will switch to automated systems. So, I would advise my readers not to invest in re-training for the trucking industry, unless you already have a plan to re-train for something else in the semi-near future.

Follow me just a little further here. Consider the impact of other technologies that are currently being developed, or are developed but have not yet come down in price far enough for general consumption. The automated lawn mower, when its cost drops to a level that makes it mainstream how many landscapers will lose work? Worse, anyone who has looked at the potential of nanotechnology, an area in which Georgia Tech has recently and with great fanfare, made extensive investments, will radically impact the manufacturing industry. If one subscribes to Google's newsletter on the subject of nanotechnology, one develops a real sense of the investment being made around the world, including the fact that a nanotechnology market has recently been developed to allow investors to hedge across an index fund of corporations in this area. But the potential is there for nanotechnology to destroy the economy as we know it through the development of self-replicating machines, and machines able to replicate anything at the atomic level once they have been programmed.

I will continue on this topic at a later date, but I want to close this section by saying that economic forecasts and public policies that underweight the technological progress that is coming down the pike in the next twenty years, are almost worthless. How to deal with these coming changes in very real terms is not easy. I have addressed one area in previous posts, that of bringing the average person into the information economy, as having potential for easing the painful economic disruptions on the citizens of Western economies, but I recognize it as limited in scope and effectiveness. More real analysis by greater thinkers across disciplines is needed to develop a real feasible road map to the future.

Edited 9:53 3/15/04
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