Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Keep Your Eye On FreedomPop

It's only a matter of time until someone comes up with a Skype-like application that will make smartphones affordable -- something like FreedomPop. Watch this space.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Let Us All Mock Eric Cantor (2012)

It's an oldie, but a goodie. Click here for Eric Cantor's tweet celebrating Labor Day, 2012:
Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.
The link includes a short blurb about the establishment of Labor Day as a national holiday. Hey, Eric, maybe you should recognize that Labor Day was created to honor labor -- not management. Jerk.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

CPC Budget

The CPC (Congressional Progressive Caucus) has released its annual budget proposal. It contains a lot of good ideas -- that will be seen by hardly anyone. Lightweight Paul Ryan gets all kinds of coverage of his smoke-and-mirrors Ayn Rand propositions, but the CPC? Not so much. Here's a budget summary:

"We’re in a jobs crisis that isn’t going away. Millions of hard-working American families are falling behind, and the richest 1 percent is taking home a bigger chunk of our nation’s gains every year. Americans face a choice: we can either cut Medicare benefits to pay for more tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, or we can close these tax loopholes to invest in jobs. We choose investment. The Back to Work Budget invests in America’s future because the best way to reduce our long-term deficit is to put America back to work.

"In the first year alone, we create nearly 7 million American jobs and increase GDP by 5.7%.

"We reduce unemployment to near 5% in three years with a jobs plan that includes repairing our nation’s roads and bridges, and putting the teachers, cops and firefighters who have borne the brunt of our economic downturn back to work.

"We reduce the deficit by $4.4 trillion by closing tax loopholes and asking the wealthy to pay a fair share.

"We repeal the arbitrary sequester and the Budget Control Act that are damaging the economy, and strengthen Medicare and Medicaid, which provide high quality, low-cost medical coverage to millions of Americans when they need it most.

"This is what the country voted for in November. It’s time we side with America’s middle class and invest in their future.

Job Creation
• Infrastructure – substantially increases infrastructure investment to the level the American Society of Civil Engineers says is necessary to close our infrastructure needs gap

• Education – funds school modernizations and rehiring laid-off teachers

• Aid to States – closes the recession-caused gap in state budgets for two years, allowing the rehiring of cops, firefighters, and other public employees

• Making Work Pay – boosts consumer demand by reinstating an expanded tax credit for three years

• Emergency Unemployment Compensation – allows beneficiaries to claim up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits in high-unemployment states for two years

• Public Works Job Programs and Aid to Distressed Communities – includes job programs such as a Park Improvement Corps, Student Jobs Corps, and Child Care Corps

Fair Individual Tax
• Immediately allows Bush tax cuts to expire for families earning over $250K
• Higher tax rates for millionaires and billionaires (from 45% to 49%)
• Taxes income from investments the same as income from wages

Fair Corporate Tax
• Ends corporate tax bias toward moving jobs and profits overseas
• Enacts a financial transactions tax
• Reduces deductions for corporate jets, meals, and entertainment

• Returns Pentagon spending to 2006 levels, focusing on modern security needs Health Care
• No benefit cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security
• Reduces health care costs by adopting a public option, negotiating drug prices, and reducing fraud

• Prices carbon pollution with a rebate to hold low income households harmless
• Eliminates corporate tax subsidies for oil, gas, and coal companies

The Back to Work Budget creates nearly 7 million jobs in its first year

Robert Reich's 7 Points

Okay, he's shilling for his documentary, "Inequality for All" -- an excellent documentary, by the way -- but this exposition on 7 points is a short clip that puts his arguments in a nutshell.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

High-Speed Rail For Low-Information America

Click here for an argument for building an American high-speed-rail network.

Good Gravy (train)! The Media FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) Factory

Click here for Bob Rankin's take on the media (CNN in particular) -- sensationalistic nonsense designed simply to garner clicks -- this is news?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Short Interview With Bill Maher

Click here for short takes from an interview of Bill Maher by Harry Smith of NBC News, in which Maher makes several good points in a short time.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Impending Societal Collapse - The Fall Of The Western Empire?

Click here for an article in The Guardian by Nafeez Ahmed entitled Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'?

The subheading is "Natural and social scientists develop new model of how 'perfect storm' of crises could unravel global system."
Noting that warnings of 'collapse' are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common."
In other words, it's happened to advanced, complex civilizations before; it can happen again. And it isn't Armageddon; it's the natural order of things.
By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.
These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity"; and "the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or "Commoners") [poor]" These social phenomena have played "a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse," in all such cases over "the last five thousand years."
Currently, high levels of economic stratification are linked directly to overconsumption of resources, with "Elites" based largely in industrialised countries responsible for both:
"... accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels."
The elites are cushioned against the collapse, which is felt first by the poor or the commoners, but it eventually overwhelms the elites as well:
Another scenario focuses on the role of continued resource exploitation, finding that "with a larger depletion rate, the decline of the Commoners occurs faster, while the Elites are still thriving, but eventually the Commoners collapse completely, followed by the Elites."
In both scenarios, Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most "detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners", allowing them to "continue 'business as usual' despite the impending catastrophe." The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how "historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases)."
The study's conclusions are not all gloom and doom, though: with wisdom and foresight (?!), corrective measures can be taken:
The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth:
"Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion."
And finally:
Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies - by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance - have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a 'perfect storm' within about fifteen years. But these 'business as usual' forecasts could be very conservative.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Read Extremely Fast, With Total Comprehension!

Click here for an article at Elite Daily, by Christian La Du, entitled This Insane New App Will Allow You To Read Novels In Under 90 Minutes. It seems to work! Courtesy of my newsletter from Bob Rankin.

Thursday, March 6, 2014