Thursday, 27 December 2007

Why I Support Ron Paul

First off let me say the elections in this country are a sham.

I do not mean to suggest that the United Nations monitor our election process, but according to our own measures of democratic elections abroad, we do not even come close to the standards we hold to other nations. There is plenty of reputable investigative journalism available (albeit, mainly outside the mainstream media) that not only proves that the 2000 election was hijacked, but also the 2004 election. If memory serves, "The Daily Mirror" ran a headline in 2004 that stated "How can 59 million people be so Dumb?". No doubt, Kerry ran a very poor campaign. One would almost think Kerry didn't want to win, running as Bush Lite – but I was still astonished by the outcome. I say astonished, because it truly was an incomprehensible and illogical result. Consider these facts:

1. Bush's approval ratings before the 2004 election among registered actual voters was at best estimates only 48 percent, yet somehow managed to get 51 percent of the vote. But these incumbents never made surges from their last horse race number:
1956 Eisenhower's final horse race projection 59.5%, his actual share of the vote 57.8%
1964 Johnson's final horse race projection 64%, his actual share of the vote 61.3%
1972 Nixon's final horse race projection tally 62%, his actual share of the vote 61.8%
1976 Ford's final horse race projection number 49%, his actual share of the vote 48.1%.
1980 Carter's final horse projection numer 44%, his actual share of the vote 41%.
1984 Reagan final horse race projection tally 59%, his actual share of the vote 59.2%.
1996 Clinton's final horse race number 52%, his actual share of the vote 49.2%

2. Over 122 million Americans voted in 2004, an increase of 17 million over the 2000 presidential election. Turnout jumped from 54 percent of eligible voters in 2000 to 61 percent in 2004. This was also a year where spontaneous protests cropped up in just about every urban center, and to my knowledge the only time a political party's convention also saw a strong, consolidated protest. The media did their best to ignore these inconvenient facts, but the truth is that Bush & Co. managed to upset a good number of Americans sufficiently to get them to travel to Washington D.C., and New York to voice their strong opposition to Bush's policies.

3. National exit polls projected Kerry at 51 percent and Bush at 48 percent, yet later the media widely reports such polls as being the most inaccurate of any election as well as a reluctancy among Republican voters to admit whom they voted for? Hmm…I have yet to meet any of those reluctant Republicans.

I could go on for pages, but to me it comes down to two simple questions. Why would voters show up in record numbers to reelect an unpopular incumbent president? And why would all the polls be so inaccurate in regard to one single election? I think the answer is all too obvious, and it is as simple as this: Bush stole the 2004 election. But lest I invite you to infer that Kerry would have been our savior, allow me to assuage such an inference. Kerry undoubtedly would have made little difference since he too would have furthered the neoliberal corporatist agenda.

Perhaps this is why half of the registered voters stay home? They see little point in voting, and I must say they are right. I believe that all eligible voters be registered to vote and required to vote in all elections, or otherwise face a fine or community service. Yet a vote of "no confidence" for any political office would be on all ballots. Should "no confidence" get a majority of votes, the election would be deemed suspended until a candidate inspire enough of the citizenry to claim a "mandate".

The Undivided States of America – we're not red and blue; we're purple

This is the "us" versus "them" map the media loves to show of the 2004 presidential election.

A more realistic depiction, yet one must also account for population centers.

I am a journeyman lithographer, and I can tell you that if you take 48 percent cyan (blue) and 51 percent magenta (red), you'll get purple. We are the purple people, folks! I use this illustration because I do not believe the myth of a divided nation that the media hypes. I have traveled across this nation on several occasions, and my experiential knowledge tells me another story. Call it anecdotal if you will, but I am more inclined to believe it. Most Americans are neither liberals nor conservatives. Most of us are centrists. Just as most of us are not bible-thumping proselytizers or raging atheists. Most of us are rather secular with some kind of nebulous religious affiliation. Yet most of us really want the same thing, and one thing that is a high priority is a protection of liberty and personal freedom. And not so surprisingly, most Americans are wary of career politicians and big government. What unites us is far more than what divides us. "E Pluribus Unum", "One out of Many". It's a good motto, and much more accurate than "In God We Trust", which belongs in a prayer book, not on our national currency. The sooner we get "god" out of government the better. Meanwhile, God in all his infinite glory can reside perpetually within his Universal Kingdom where no one can monopolize him.

Democrats I like, and why they don't stand a chance.

I like Kucinich and Gravel. Both of these men have proven records and stand on principled philosophies. Unfortunately, the DNC will ensure that neither one of them, or for that matter any true progressive, will ever stand a chance at winning their party's nomination. This is why I have reregistered as a Republican. I am tired of lending my support to candidates that cannot seem to rise to more than a mere couple of percentage points. The Democrats cannot sell their message to the people, because they have none. Now the Democratically controlled Congress actually has managed to fall below the Bush Administration in its approval ratings. And finally there are particular voters that actually get out to the polls on wedge issues that will always hurt the Democrats. Abortion and Guns are both non-issues in my mind, along with gay unions. I have an opinion on all three, but I don't think they are of such importance compared to the issues that really matter (see priorities). Ron Paul would actually cross that divide, whereas all the Democrats are guilty by association.

The Democratic Party has abandoned true progressive ideals.

Yes, the Republican Lite Party is owned and operated by the very same corporate interests. Whoda thunk it?

Third parties – Why bother?

Green Party? Reform Party? Constitutionalist Party? Libertarian Party? There is plenty of talent and good ideas, but the chances of winning a presidential bid in the present electoral system is about as likely as winning the state lottery two weeks in a row.

It's the primaries – tell the media to be quiet! (Or better yet, just stop listening)

We should be looking for the candidate that best represents our interests, not the candidate that the network news deems fit. Nor should you vote the "lesser of two evils" in order to "win". What are we "winning" anyway?

What are our priorities again?

I'd say, that number one is getting out of Iraq and just about everywhere else. Secondly is our economy and our monetary policy. Thirdly is rescinding all these horrible "free trade" agreements that have sent our jobs overseas where labor and environmental protections are not upheld. And finally, we should ensure that our government is truly representative of the people and make certain that our liberties are protected. Ron Paul gets an A on all of the above. Kucinich does almost as well, but he doesn't see a problem with our monetary policy (the Federal Reserve) and he supports the IRS and the Federal Income Tax. As long as those two things remain in place, there will be big, bureaucratic government and the military-industrial complex. Gravel does better, since he sees a connection between the IRS and a loss of sovereignty. No other candidates stand near these issues.

Growing autocratic nature of U.S. Government – Free Republic or Autocratic Empire? You decide.

This is the question of the century. Maybe even the next millennium!

Unifying messages and populist movements, and why they scare the bejesus out of the establishment.

See if the more support Ron Paul gets, the more the media will try and smear his character. Ask yourself why the corporate controlled media would do such a thing. I doubt the media will find much dirt on Paul, and he is smart enough to see them coming. So far, the worst anyone can come up with is guilt by association, since he received campaign contributions from some unsavory people. Apparently he also has some problems with the theory of evolution. Yet he is hardly alone. I don't see how any educated person can deny evolution as fact, but Paul doesn't actually go that far. I don't see why this should be reason not to vote for him. Maybe I wouldn't hire him as a science professor, but I have no doubt he can handle himself in the office he is running for.

Yeah, but can Ron Paul win?

Short answer: yes. He is a populist candidate, but he is smart enough to run as a candidate from one of our two major political parties. H. Ross Perot was the last populist candidate who ran independently in 1992. Even after dropping out of the race and later reentering, he was able to garner an unprecedented 19 percent of the popular vote. No third party candidate in recent times has rallied such a showing. I believe it was due to the populist nature of Perot's campaign, and had he not initially abandoned his bid for the presidency; I believe he likely would have actually stood a chance at winning a number of electoral votes, perhaps even upsetting Clinton's chances. Remember that we were in an economic recession at the time with an incumbent president who had upset many fiscal conservatives. I think that by the best estimates, 2008 will be a year of recession and stagflation. There is even a likelihood that our continued monetary policies will see another major devaluation of the dollar, in which case Americans will assuredly be open to a discussion of new economic policies. Such policies would undoubtedly include a major reduction in spending abroad. The only candidate besides Kucinich and Gravel who is against the continued occupation of Iraq, happens to be Ron Paul. His message is a unifying one that crosses all sorts of political ideologies, and it is common sense to most Americans. His message is a message of freedom and the responsibility inherent in maintaining liberty.

Once inaugurated, what can be done, actually?

My guess is a whole lot more than Giuliani or Clinton. The "war" in Iraq is opposed by 70 percent of Americans, so it shouldn't be that difficult for us to end our occupation. Paul would do a good deal to balance our budget, bring jobs home and stabilize our economy. Paul would also rescind all these gross violations of our liberties, like the Patriot Act. All of this would be far better than any of the corporate sponsored candidates.

Issues that seldom get discussed and the sorry state of "debate" in the media.

A few issues that come to mind immediately are monetary policy, economic policy, strategic power and policy abroad, government's true responsibility, just to mention what pops into my head. Nothing of any substance is ever debated in the media, and those "hot button" divisive issues are just shouting matches between hot airbags. A Paul presidency, or any true populist candidate would force a national dialog. It is about time we have such a thing, since most Americans are woefully ignorant on the real issues.

What is our responsibility as citizens?

We must take back our government and seek empowerment. We must insist upon our national sovereignty. We must elect populist candidates and unseat these career politicians once and for all. And finally, we must ensure that government remains of, by and for the people!

And if it comes down to Neoliberal Autocrat A or Neoliberal Autocrat B?

Or Neocons, if you prefer (it's all the same poor philosophy; fascism by another name). I suggest we either boycott the election or write-in "no confidence" on the ballot. I am not going to lend credence to a failed and fundamentally undemocratic election.


This may very likely be our last chance at saving our republic. Now is the time for each and every one of us to act. We must save our heritage and pass something of value on to the future generations. May God help us.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Talk by Naomi Wolf - The End of America

It is upon us unless we all take to task our fundamental duty as patriots.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Ten Reasons not to Vote for Clinton

1. Clinton voted to give the President unprecedented powers to illegally invade a nation that posed no threat to U.S. security, bypassing Congress and openly defying our Constitution.

2. Clinton has continued to vote for massive appropriations for the continued Iraqi occupation.

3. Clinton has been complicit with the large majority of Democrats in posing no real opposition to the growing tyranny and power-hungry Executive branch under the Bush-Cheney regime.

4. Clinton has stated that "all options" are on the table for dealing with Iran, which is code for the nuclear option. Clinton will continue our illegal occupation of Iraq, and undoubtedly entangle us further in the Middle East.

5. Clinton has received millions from the Corporate Lobby. It should be obvious who she "represents".

6. Clinton is the consummate politician. Her rhetoric and her actions do not jibe.

7. Clinton's record as Senator, and her husband's record as President both support the Neoliberal (Neo-Con) agenda. They are both pro Big Government and pro Big Corporate Monopolies.

8. Clinton has made no statement at any time regarding the amount of power that has been obtained by the Executive branch during the past seven years, and she'd likely be content as the next American Emperor. It is doubtful she would do anything to restore our rights and liberties.

9. Clinton is the media "darling". This alone should be reason to question her motives and allegiance. Hint: it doesn't lie within the bounds of the Constitution.

10. 1980 (Bush Sr. V.P.), 1984 (Bush Sr. V.P.), 1988 (Bush Sr. Pres.), 1992 (Clinton Pres.), 1996 (Clinton Pres.), 2000 (GW Bush Pres.), 2004 (GW Bush Pres.), 2008 (Clinton Pres.?) Notice a pattern?

Please note that the mere fact that Clinton is a woman has nothing to do with my top ten reasons not to vote for her.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Penn and Teller Defend Ron Paul vs. Luntz and Fox News

Most thinking people would say that Faux News is nothing more than a propaganda machine for the NeoLiberal Fascists (or NeoCons if you prefer). Yet we all are suckers for poll numbers. Don't believe the polls. Vote your conscience. Ron Paul blew the other Republican candidates away in the Fox News debate. He was asked only three questions, the moderator inferred that he got his "marching orders" from Al-Qaeda, and Giulliani cackled like a clown and cued his supporters to heckle Paul (over 1,000 of Giulliani's supporters were given tickets whereas Paul's supporters were allowed a mere handful regardless of the fact that wherever Paul goes he generates far more public support than any other candidate). Yet even still, when the text message polls were taken by Fox News, Congressman Paul won by a landslide 38% compared to Giulliani (the runner up) who managed to get 12 percent. Sean Hannity tried to bury the results and inferred that Paul supporters sent multiple messages (but the truth is that only a single vote could be made per phone). The Fox spin-machine then went into high gear attempting to explain away such support.

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Saturday, 3 November 2007

Why Is the Dollar Losing Value?

Why Is the Dollar Losing Value?
A Closer Look at the Dollar and the Euro and What the Dollar's Drop Means for You

ABC NEWS Business Unit
Sept. 20, 2007 —

The Canadian dollar has reached parity with the U.S. dollar for the first time since 1976. They are now equal in value. The euro also soared to its highest-ever level against the dollar, trading above $1.40 for the first time since the currency was introduced in 1999.

So why is the dollar plunging, and what impact does that plunge have on U.S. and world markets? Here's a look at some of the reasons for the dollar's fall, and the consequences

Why the Weak Dollar?

There are several reasons. First, there's the difference between the interest rate in the United States -- the one the Federal Reserve just dropped by half a percentage point to 4.75 percent -- and the interest rates of other central banks around the world.

When the United States dropped its rate, other banks did not follow. Now the spread between the interest rate at the European Central Bank (home of the euro) and the Federal Reserve (home of the dollar) is smaller than it has traditionally been, and that has weakened the value of the dollar against the euro. Put another way, you would get a better interest rate return holding a euro than a dollar.

Second, central banks around the world have been diversifying their holdings away from dollars to euros, British pounds and so on. That means there are more dollars out there in currency markets available to purchase. More dollars floating around means diminished value.

What Effect Does This Have?

Look at the record-high price of oil. Even if the same amount of oil is being pumped out of the ground, since it is traded in dollars and the dollar has weakened, the price of oil has increased to make up for the lost value of the dollar, creating a sort of vicious cycle.

Oil-producing countries don't want to keep all the dollars they are getting for their oil, since it's worth less, so they are diversifying and converting their dollars into euros or other currencies. That pushes more dollars back out into currency markets, which in turn pushes down the dollar's value.

One analyst told ABC News that Russia used to have 90 percent of its financial reserves in dollars. It now has 45 percent in dollars, 45 percent in euros and 10 percent in British pounds.

What Does This Mean in the U.S.?

The news is mixed. It's good, because it makes what we produce here cheaper to sell in foreign markets, and that in turn spurs exports of our products around the world. That translates into more manufacturing and more jobs. For example, BMW and Mercedes Benz want to build cars in the United States, because they can do it cheaper in nonunion states than in Germany, where they'd pay labor and parts in euros, and then bring the cars to the United States, where they would be too expensive to sell at a profit.

But a weak dollar is bad, because it leads to inflation in this country. Imports from foreign countries will become more expensive, and in particular, oil will be more expensive. That puts pressure on businesses to increase prices for anything that uses oil or products that come from overseas. One benefit for American shoppers is that China has largely pegged its currency to ours, so that keeps the price of Chinese-made goods low and therefore, keeps a check on inflation.

U.S. Treasuries, Bonds, Mortgages, Stocks

What does a weak dollar mean for all that, and why should I care? If the dollar falls too much, foreign investors and banks won't be so interested in buying T-bills and bonds that keep the U.S. government and businesses humming. That's because the interest rate might not be enough to compensate for inflation. In other words, whatever is earned would be worth less money.

To attract buyers, the T-bills and bonds will sell for less and have higher interest rates. And since many mortgages are tied to these interest rates, that might mean mortgage rates won't drop anytime soon. Also, a weak dollar might scare away foreign investors who don't want to own stock in U.S. companies.

What About Foreign Investors?

Could there be a wholesale dumping of U.S. dollars by foreign governments and investors? Maybe. But that would be executing a sort of "nuclear option."

If China were to dump its reserves of dollars into currency markets, that would dramatically lower the value of the dollar. All those bonds and T-bills that the country holds would drop in value, as inflation would erase any gains from the investment. China would be less able to sell its goods to the United States because the dollar would be too weak, and Chinese products would be more expensive.

If Saudi Arabia were to call for oil to be traded in euros, "that announcement would be the end of the U.S. dollar," said Ashraf Laidi, chief currency analyst at CMC Markets. But he said that would never happen as long as the United States and Saudi Arabia are allies, and the U.S. continues to negotiate arms and other deals with the world's largest oil producer.

Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures

Friday, 19 October 2007

There ain't nothin' wrong with the tap.

The Bottled Water Backlash
By Michael Blanding, AlterNet
Posted on October 19, 2007, Printed on October 19, 2007

At Bella Luna Restaurant in Boston's funky Jamaica Plain neighborhood, you'll find star-shaped paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling and gourmet pizzas named after Red Sox players. Downstairs, the attached Milky Way Lounge & Lanes boasts a seven-lane bowling alley and a Latin dance night on Saturdays.

But there is one thing you won't find at either venue: bottled water.

As a note at the bottom of the restaurant's wine list explains, "In an effort to preserve global resources, Bella Luna does not serve bottled water. We have fountain seltzer water and filtered still water by request."

Bella Luna's CEO, Kathie Mainzer made the decision to can the bottle six months ago after a trip to the Dominican Republic, where residents have to boil their tap water in order to drink it. "I came home realizing what a precious resource water is and how we take it for granted," she says, noting that tap water in Boston is safe, cheap and doesn't lead to more trash. "Here we were throwing away this free resource and generating more disposable items -- it seemed absurd."

Between the bottles of Saratoga Spring she served with dinner and Poland Spring that bar-goers would order downstairs, Mainzer figures she is losing around $500 a month from the decision. But "it was worth it to avoid adding more pollution to the landfills," she says. At the same time, she has also had to educate staff on how to explain the decision to customers, who may never have made the connection. "The first response is, 'Really?' Then the second response is, 'That's great,'" she says. "People are just kind of shocked, because it's new."

New it may be, but the eatery has joined a growing backlash against bottled water by restaurants, city governments, religious organizations and ordinary consumers, who reject it on environmental, economic and even moral grounds. At a time when Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming, and consumers are lining up to buy hybrid cars and fluorescent light bulbs to reduce their carbon footprint, they see bottled water as a glaring example of needless environmental waste.

Americans drank some 37 billion bottles of water in 2005, despite the inconvenient truth that in most parts of the country, tap water is not only perfectly safe, but also more tightly regulated that its bottled counterpart. At the same time, manufacturing plastic bottles for bottled water creates an astounding amount of pollution -- an annual equivalent of 1.5 billion barrels of oil, according to Food & Water Watch. Add to that the carbon emissions from transporting water from as far away as Norway (Voss), Italy (San Pellegrino), or Fiji (Fiji), and the billions of plastic bottles that end up in the waste stream, and drinking bottled water does start to seem a little bit of madness.

Yet even at supposedly environmentally conscious stores like Whole Foods Market, bottled water is the No. 1 selling item. Over the past decade, sales have continued to grow 10 percent a year, a rate that would make most companies blush. It was only a matter of time, perhaps, before the industry became a victim of its own success and people began realizing what comedians from Dennis Miller to Janeane Garofalo have been telling us for years -- that "Evian is just naïve spelled backwards."

Earlier this month, the activist group Corporate Accountability International (CAI) brought that message home to the consumers with its new "Think Outside the Bottle Pledge," which commits signees to "opt for public water over bottled water" and support "the efforts of local officials who prioritize strong public water systems." According to the group, CAI has already signed several thousand people on the pledge, including actor Martin Sheen and several mayors around the country.

"By taking this pledge, people are separating the packaging from the product and saying we don't have to create a waste stream of billions of bottles to have a drink of water," says Gigi Kellet, campaign director for the organization. "They are basically saying they are going to do what they can to support strong public water systems and let communities around the country who are struggling to regain control of their resources know they are not alone."

The pledge caps a summer of organizing that has seen the backlash against bottled water go mainstream. Bella Luna isn't the only restaurant to ban bottled water from its menu. The movement burst into public view this spring when chef Alice Waters, the godmother of "California cuisine," nixed bottled water from her Berkeley, Calif., restaurant Chez Panisse. Soon after, Food Network favorite Mario Batali followed suit at his empire of restaurants including Manhattan's swish Del Posto, serving filtered tap water in glasses etched with information on the harmful environmental impact of bottled water

Then cities -- who probably have the most to gain from promoting municipal water -- got into the act. This June, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order to cancel the city's purchasing contract for bottled water, mandating instead that city departments rely on tap water that gushes down to the city from its clean reservoirs in Yosemite National Park. The next day, over heavy lobbying from the bottled water industry, Newsom along with progressive Salt Lake City Mayor Ross C. "Rocky" Anderson and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak pushed through a resolution at the U.S. Conference of Mayors to commission a study looking at the impact of discarded bottled water bottles on city waste streams.

According to the Container Recycling Institute (CRI), 96 percent of bottled water is sold in single-size polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles, which, because they are frequently consumed "on the go," end up in city trash cans rather than recycling bins. The national recycling rate for all PET bottles, including soda bottles, is just 23.1 percent, and bottled water is even lower. CRI estimates some 4 billion PET bottles end up in the waste stream, costing cities some $70 million a year in cleanup and landfill costs.

Bottled water "very clearly reflects the wasteful and reckless consumerism in this country," said Salt Lake City's Anderson in a conference call with reporters this month. "You really have to wonder at the utter stupidity and the irresponsibility sometimes of American consumers. These false needs are provided, and too often we just fall in line with what Madison Avenue comes up with to market these unnecessary products."

While falling short of a binding executive order, Anderson issued a directive to all city departments a year ago mandating that no tax money be spent on providing bottles of water for meetings and events. In coordination with CAI, the city has launched a campaign, called "Knock Out Bottled Water," with its own pledge for consumers and restaurants. (So far, 15 have signed up, most of them part of the city's popular upscale Gastronmy Inc. chain, whose flagship Market Street Grill earned "chef of the year" honors from Salt Lake City magazine.)

Other cities have separately pioneered their own efforts. New York, which gets pristine water from the Catskills, has started an advertising campaign to encourage residents to drink "cool, healthy, clean ... NYC water." In Berkeley, the school district last year replaced bottled water machines with large containers of tap. Other California cities, including Santa Barbara, Emeryville, San Leandro and Los Angeles have either cancelled bottled water contracts or instructed city departments not to buy bottled water. And this month, Boston signed on to the CAI pledge.

Nor is it just cities in on the East and West coasts that are taking action -- Ann Arbor, Mich., has already cancelled bottled water contracts, and mayors in other cities such as Urbana, Ill., and Wauwatosa, Wis., are considering similar actions. In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley is considering a proposal to tax bottled water producers who bottle municipal water. And one of the very first cities to promote its tap water is -- of all places -- Louisville, Ky., which has distributed more than 1.8 million "Pure Tap" water bottles to residents since 1997 and branded a mascot, Tapper, to educate kids about the source of their water.

As the wave against bottled water has grown into a tide, the industry has not taken long to splash back. This August, the International Bottled Water Association published full-page ads in the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle decrying the "misguided and confusing criticism by activist groups and a handful of mayors who have presented misinformation and subjective criticism as facts."

Instead of pitting bottled water against tap water, the group says, bottled water should be seen as an alternative to soda and other sugary drinks consumed outside the home. Its ads quote statistics saying 70 percent of beverages are consumed from a can or bottle, "a result of our 24/7 on-the-go society. So as far as we are concerned, the drink in everyone's purse, backpack, and lunch box should be water."

In fact IWBA president Joe Doss says a private poll by one bottler found three-quarters of people drink both tap water and bottled water, depending on the circumstances. "We don't see tap water as our competition," he says. "Every day on newspapers and TV, you see stories about increasing obesity and diabetes. These actions against bottled water will have no good consequences if they discourage people from drinking a healthy beverage."

As for recycling, Doss says that bottled water companies have done their part to reduce the amount of PET resin in bottles by 40 percent over the last five years. Despite the number of bottles that end up in landfills, however, he says PET bottles represent only a third of 1 percent (.0033) of all trash. "If you can get your head around that, it's very clear that these efforts to target bottled water are misguided at best and totally ineffective in dealing with the problem at worst." Instead, Doss says IWBA has been involved in supporting curbside recycling initiatives to try and increase the number of water bottles that are recycled, adding that two-thirds of bottled water is consumed at home, work or offices, places where curbside recycling is readily available.

Of course, those are all places where tap water is also readily available, contradicting the argument that bottled water is necessary as an alternative beverage "on the go." When I point out the discrepancy, Doss repeats his mantra of "choice": "It is a choice, it's always a choice; they should have that choice. Bottled water consumers are choosing to drink both, and there is nothing wrong with that."

Perhaps not so coincidentally, that is the same argument that soda companies have used for a decade as their product has come increasingly under attack from health advocates looking to ban soda from schools. After all, many of the same companies at the lead of soda production also produce water. The top producer of bottled water is Nestlé, which owns a quarter of the market with its brands, including Poland Spring, Calistoga, Deer Park, Ice Mountain and Arrowhead. Second and third are PepsiCo and the Coca-Cola Co., which produce Aquafina and Dasani, respectively.

In fact, as soft drinks started to decline in sales for the first time, Coke and Pepsi have increasingly promoted water as a healthy alternative, putting tens of millions of dollars of advertising into rebranding themselves as "hydration" companies and quietly replacing soda logos on vending machines with huge Aquafina and Dasani logos (with bottles of Coke and Pepsi, of course, still available a few buttons down.) Despite advertisements touting the purity of bottled water, however, Aquafina's former tagline says it all: "So pure we promise nothing."

While federal law requires that bottled water be held to the same standards as tap water, tap water is actually more tightly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which requires daily testing and mandatory reporting to the public. For bottled water, the Food and Drug Administration requires only weekly testing and voluntary reporting. A 1999 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found contamination in some bottles, including e.coli and arsenic.

While some companies, such as Nestlé, report testing information on their website, others don't. "All bottled water companies have telephone numbers you can contact to get the info you want," says Doss. "If you don't get the info you want, you can say, 'I'm not going to drink that brand.' You don't have that choice with tap water."

Others don't see that way. "There is accountability in the municipal system," says Wenonah Hauter, director of Food & Water Watch, which produced a report on bottled water this spring called Take Back the Tap. Her organization originally got into the issue of bottled water while battling companies seeking to privatize municipal water systems. "The excuse that elected officials often gave for privatization was that the public had lost confidence in the public water systems," says Hauter. "We realized that the whole issue of bottled water and the ad campaigns they have done for the past 10 or 15 years has really undermined public water. If we spent just a fraction of what people spend for what is an inferior or at least not a better product, we could have clean water for everyone."

In other words, bottled water has created a chicken-and-egg syndrome whereby advertisements touting the purity of bottled water undermine public support for maintenance of public systems, creating more reliance on bottled water as a source of drinking water. "It's kind of like you keep building more and more highways to accommodate sprawl, and it's this vicious cycle," says Anderson. "We need to stop accommodating these problems and giving up by drinking bottled water. We need to start demanding city officials address these issues."

Despite the problems activists see with bottled water, tap water is hardly a panacea. The EPA estimates that municipalities face a $22 billion shortfall in spending on maintenance of their water systems, and some of the same environmental groups that oppose bottled water have also warned against tap water contamination, especially in rural areas. In other areas, water that is perfectly safe may still have an inherently unpleasant taste or contain added chemicals such as chlorine. It's no accident that cities pushing tap water are those with the best water -- Boston, San Francisco and New York, for example -- are among the five cities in the country with water so pure the EPA doesn't require filtration. And even in those cities, rusting lead pipes in certain buildings can cause contamination that isn't monitored by the EPA.

The safest and cheapest solution, says Hauter, is to invest in a home filtration system and fill your own water bottles from the tap. The most expensive systems cost only about $400 and use reverse osmosis, the same process used by Coke and Pepsi to filter their bottled water. The vast majority of consumers, however, don't need anything that extreme, says Hauter. For chemicals like chlorine, an "adsorptive filter" such as the popular Britta filters, can do the trick. Slightly fancier filters with "ion exchange resin" can take care of lead. And on-the-faucet "particulate filters" can remove particles and bacteria. Because the EPA requires municipalities to submit yearly tests on water quality, it's relatively easy to find out what contaminants, if any, are in your water by going to the agency's website. Or to be doubly sure, some municipal health departments will test your water for free. From there, the Take Back the Tap report lists several nonprofit organizations that can recommend the best filter on the basis of the findings.

After all, filtered tap water is good enough for many bottled water companies themselves. This summer, PepsiCo made the embarrassing public admission that its Aquafina brand water is actually nothing more than filtered water from municipal sources, a fact that the company will now note on its bottles. In fact, some 40 percent of bottled water, including Coke's Dasani brand, is water that it gets from the tap for free, puts through filtration processes, and then sells back to the public with a markup of up to 1,000 times. A law passed by the state legislature in California this year would have required all bottled water companies to print their source, as well as water quality information, on the label. Though the bill was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarchenegger this month, advocates see momentum on their side. "When we first introduced this bill in 2003, it was an uphill battle, and everyone said it was 'a solution in search of a problem,'" says Jennifer Clary of Clean Water Action. "No one was saying that this time."

In terms of environmental impact, however, that may be better than the water that Nestlé gets from springs and underwater aquifers around the country. Unlike with surface water, most states have no laws against takings of groundwater that lies underneath a landowner's property, leading to a situation that Texans call the "law of the biggest pump" -- that is, whoever sucks hardest can literally take the water from beneath his neighbor's property.

While industry advocates rightly point out that bottled water amounts to a very small percent of total groundwater use, rural communities around the country have fought specific bottled water plants that take millions of gallons of water out of their watersheds at no cost, and often without so much as a permit or study on environmental consequences.

In addition to the backlash in restaurants and cities, grassroots efforts around the country have taken the fight directly to the source, leading to bills in more than ten states to regulate groundwater takings -- including in Florida, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia. Some of the bills have even proposed an extraction tax of several cents a gallon that would offset costs to the environment. While most of these bills have been defeated after heavy lobbying from industry, both Michigan and Vermont have passed legislation requiring permits for taking water over a certain amount of water (250,000 gallons a day and 50,000 gallons a day, respectively).

The hardest battle has been fought in Maine, where Nestlé's Poland Spring brand extracts some 180 million gallons a year from land in three communities -- Poland, Hollis, and Fryeburg. Residents have complained about the hundreds of trucks that rumble through their rural communities, as well as anecdotal reports of dropping water levels in area wells, lakes, and rivers. In these days of massive droughts across the country, there's no telling how much of that, if any, is due to the bottling plants. But that's just the point, says Jim Wilfong, director of grassroots group H2OforME. "It's impossible to tell what's going on beneath the ground," he says. "They will always tell you they are monitoring water levels, but there is no independent confirmation."

Last year, Wilfong's group circulated petitions for a state referendum that would create a permitting process for water extraction that would include environmental review and ongoing monitoring. In addition, it would require a 20-cent-per-gallon extraction tax that would be contributed to a trust to compensate taxpayers for water takings. "That water belongs to all people of Maine, and the reason it's clean is we have invested in public sewer systems and cleaned up oil and gasoline spills," says Wilfong, a former state legislator and assistant trade secretary under Clinton. "Then a company moves in from Switzerland and takes some advantage of it. As a principle that is not right."

The referendum campaign was bitterly fought, with Nestlé reportedly contributing $200,000 to a political action committee that waged an aggressive media campaign, stirring up anti-tax sentiment and warning about lost jobs in rural areas. In the end, the referendum failed to make the ballot by just a few hundred signatures. When Wilfong vowed to bring it up again this year, however, Nestlé offered to sit down and hammer out a compromise. While the tax idea was dropped, the bill introduced this summer establishes much of what the referendum would have done, including a permitting process with environmental impact study and subsequent groundwater monitoring paid for by the companies, as well as language acknowledging for the first time that groundwater is a public resource that companies did not have unlimited access to.

"It's not the end-all, but, boy, it moved us along way up the path from where we were," says Wilfong. As the world faces a growing global water shortage in coming years and global warming continues to stoke fears of increasing incident of drought, it's vitally important that laws establish who owns the right to groundwater sources, he says. "That is the big issue, not just in Maine but around the country and around the world. The real questions are, who is going to own the water and who is going to control it, and isn't it insane policy to let people control something so important?"

Michael Blanding is a freelance writer living in Boston. Read more of his writing at

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Monday, 15 October 2007

Coming Soon…

It has been months since I have posted anything of my own here on this blog. I am not apologizing, however. It is simply a dry spell. It is what it is. That means I will not offer any excuses. I hope you have at least enjoyed some of the humor of my YouTube Selections.

Something I have been ruminating over is a concept I have for visualizing ideas for automobile-free zones within my very own neighborhood. A friend of mine has given me a licensed copy of Adobe Photoshop, and I have a digital camera. I will be introducing my own car-free visualizations with "before" and "after" shots. The "after" shots will be heavily manipulated, and I hope I am able to convincingly create images that convey in part what is locked up in my mind. Since I cannot draw or paint to save my life, I will photoshop instead! This will occupy a good deal of time, and it will likely be a while before you will see the results. Yet I think it will do a good deal to drive home the ideas I have for transforming cities into much more "livable" places.

Until then, I will be periodically submitting various posts and excerpts that I feel are more related to the subject matter of this blog. Although I am very politically minded, I will not be expressing much more in regard to politics either. However, I think I will be boycotting the next election, unless there is truly a candidate of substance in which to lend my support.

Hasta la vista, compadres.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Mike Gravel Young Men and Women

Don't listen, he's just an old coot. Don't listen, now, don't you dare. You too will become senile and grumpy. -- The Media

Saturday, 25 August 2007

America To The Rescue

We's gots the experience, baby!

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Bay Area Rally (pt. 1)

Join the Revolution.

Bay Area Rally (pt. 2)


Cheney in 1994 on Iraq

Like I've been saying all along, Cheney admits that this is a U.S. Occupation of Iraq. This is not a war.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Moving San Francisco Into the Future

Yesterday I had the opportunity to see three proposed architectural models for my city's new Transbay Terminal. The models were set up in City Hall. I have decided to post pictures of my choice, which I feel is the boldest and most beautiful model. I have also posted the associated article from the architect's website, but first – pictures!

As things currently stand…

The SOM Transbay Terminal

Focal Point on the Skyline

Now that's a Grand Entrance! First & Mission Streets

The Architectural Model in City Hall

A Thing of Beauty

On August 6, 2007, SOM’s San Francisco-based design partners Craig Hartman and Brian Lee presented their vision for a new transit center and tower that will transform the future of San Francisco’s transit, skyline, and downtown community. The public presentation before the Transbay Joint Powers Authority Board of Directors was part of a rigorous design and development competition begun last fall. The jury’s recommendation is expected on September 20, 2007. SOM is teamed with the Rockefeller Group Development Corporation for the competition.

Signaling a new era for the city of San Francisco, SOM’s design for the new Transbay Transit Center will preserve and enhance the exceptional qualities of the City—the beauty of the light, climate, topography, bay, and City—as well as its people, while embodying a potent belief in the region’s future. The Center consists of two defining elements: the Transit Terminal, which defines the urban transportation facility for the 21st Century, and the Transit Tower, which serves as the beacon for the new center and will act as an economic and cultural catalyst for the neighborhood and the City. The programmatic and infrastructural requirements of the Transit Terminal and Tower make it a seminal model and symbol for global sustainability.
The SOM/RGDC design proposal makes a simple but bold adjustment to the TJPA’s four-block-long overhead bus deck. The adjustment will improve the transit operations, reduce annual operating costs, and radically reduce the emission of climate-changing carbon dioxide. Achieved by creating a double-deck bus platform—moving the eastern half of the bus deck to the west—the design effectively reduces the length of the bus deck by two city blocks. This innovation accommodates the entire transit program and improves operational efficiency while freeing two full city blocks for two significant civic gestures: a light-filled Transbay Hall—a dramatic arrival hall equal in scale to that of Grand Central Station—and a city-block-sized “opportunity site” or Performing Arts Park.

SOM’s 1,375-foot-high, mixed-use Transbay Tower is equally bold. Its first full floor lifts 100 feet above a full-block urban plaza at Mission Street, creating a civic portal to the Transbay Hall. Its uses include retail, cultural, office space, a boutique hotel, condominiums, and, at the top, a publicly accessible sky room. The tower’s tapered, turning structure is unique among U.S. skyscrapers. Its form, which unfolds as it reaches the sky, gracefully accommodates the different uses held within. Above the sky room are two state-of-the-art wind turbines that, combined with its photovoltaic crown, reduce annual mechanical electrical consumption by 74%. In addition to the proposed opportunity site, the SOM/RGDC project includes a partnership with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which will provide a major digital arts program, and with the California State Library, which will lend its Sutro Collection. These partnerships add an extraordinary cultural dimension to what is already an advanced work of transportation infrastructure.

Through an intense collaboration with leading engineers and building technology experts, the Transbay Transit Center and Tower provides the highest level of environmental stewardship ever achieved in a major urban mixed-use project. The overall project harvests rainwater, reducing the burden on the city’s infrastructure, and makes extensive use of natural ventilation, natural light, as well as energy in the form of advanced solar and wind power. After the first decade of operation, the project’s combined reduction in emissions, compared to a conventional design, will be over 176,000,000 lbs of carbon dioxide. The Transit Center will achieve LEED® Platinum certification; the Tower will achieve a minimum of LEED® Gold and possibly LEED® Platinum.

Both buildings are designed to the highest levels of safety and security. The Transit Center’s base isolation structural system will allow the facility to withstand a “2,500 year” earthquake and serve as an emergency center in the event of a major seismic event. The Tower fully incorporates next generation lessons learned in the 21st Century for security and life safety.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

LisaNova does George Bush!

This is like totally awesome!

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Human Potential & Philosophical Ruminations

I am developing a belief that people behave more or less in ways in which they are expected to behave, or in the ways they are trained to behave. Most people are never trained to think for themselves, or better said, they are retrained to rely upon others – specifically those in authority – for advice and admonition. Institutionalized "learning", in its main manifestations – public schools, churches and universities – is designed to give answers and solutions rather than to teach its students and adherents to seek out those solutions for themselves. It really is more akin to indoctrination than learning. Learning is based upon personal experience, whereas indoctrination is based upon experience outside one's own immediate experience.

For example: After one's successful completion of his "education", he is awarded a diploma which signifies that he is now an "expert" in whichever fields of study, and for the rest of this person's life, he will base and contrast his experiences based upon his learned expectations. Rather than ever challenging his most basic assumptions, he will instead make every attempt at reclassification and reevaluation of experiences that either fall outside of said assumptions, or that do not neatly integrate within them. Perhaps this individual will disregard completely any information that runs counter to his "education", since it cannot be right. And this person represents a leader in our society; he is one of our educated elite! Those few, rare individuals that literally "think outside the box" (how I hate this cliché), are quite often ignored until their theories are later accepted as general rule.

Regardless of one's education, whether it be a high school diploma, community college, trade school or university; we all inherently "know" the falsities and illusions of this transitory existence. Most of us simply choose to ignore this inherent, internal wisdom. There are lyrics from Leonard Cohen which come to mind from his song/poem "Everybody Knows".

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
Thats how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that youve been faithful
Ah give or take a night or two
Everybody knows youve been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes
And everybody knows

And everybody knows that its now or never
Everybody knows that its me or you
And everybody knows that you live forever
Ah when youve done a line or two
Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old black Joe's still pickin' cotton
For your ribbons and bows
And everybody knows

And everybody knows that the plague is coming
Everybody knows that its moving fast
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artifact of the past
Everybody knows the scene is dead
But theres gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows

And everybody knows that youre in trouble
Everybody knows what youve been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows its coming apart
Take one last look at this sacred heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
Thats how it goes
Everybody knows…

For those who would defend institutions, it is said that the mass of humanity are like sheep that need a shepherd. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way (Isaiah 53:6). We need a Christ, or a Pope or a Führer to gather us together and show us the way. There is of course a spiritual truth in this scriptural morsel, but like all language it is subject to misunderstanding, for "the way" is not in a person, nor a Messiah. The Way is a practice, and a means of living that leads to the truth within each of us. We are each one of us, our very own Messiah. Each of us is a spark of Divinity, a child of G-d. That is the most assured truth in just about every faith tradition. We do not need anyone to find what is already within us, yet we are all in this together. The other grand spiritual truth is that we all are one. These truths are often dispelled by institutionalized religion and political organizations (corporations included), which attempt to isolate us and make us vulnerable. I sincerely believe the most fundamental human trait is empathy and compassion. The polar opposite is true for institutions which are invariably divisive and manipulate humanity in ways that are fully contrary to its nature.

Ever wonder why mankind collectively, consistently misbehaves like a selfish, spoiled child? Could it possibly be that our Institutions actually capitalize on such? Could it be that by treating us a children; we behave like children? Could it be that our human potential is intentionally, actively and repeatedly curtailed? Could it be that Institutions in fact represent a collective manifestation of our ego? Since we are not who we think we are; we are not what others think we are; we are not our thoughts nor language used to describe us; neither are we our acquisitions, material or otherwise; and finally we are not even our bodies which die and decay; therefore our ego is nothing but an illusion, and its greatest fear is "death", or its exposure to the truth that it never existed in the first place. The ego would prefer to see the destruction of the Universe over its own. We should know that our one and only adversary, the sole satanic force bent upon our destruction, is in fact what we so often perceive as ourselves – that incessant voice that broadcasts in our conscience night and day – that very voice we so readily confuse as our own! Be still and know that I AM. Be here and now. See the illusion for what it is.

Am I an Anarchist? I suppose one could find such ideological leanings in my evolving philosophy. Yet I also believe mankind is capable of so much either as individuals or in community. But mind you, community does not imply like minds and like motives even. Community is everyone living in relative harmony in all their various facets and expressions. Community implies tolerance of others. Judgement is withheld, and mercy flows like a river…

Friday, 6 July 2007

Intimacy Between Men Used Not to Imply One's Sexuality

An essay by John Ibson, author of Picturing Men.

History's fundamental lesson warns those who are comfortable with contemporary social arrangements, as it reassures those who are oppressed by current practices: It hasn't always been like this, and isn't likely to stay this way forever. This lesson is certainly true when it comes to the way that American men today are inclined and allowed to express their affection for each other—whether that affection involves romance, sexual longing, or just profound fondness.

Ang Lee's magnificent film Brokeback Mountain is the sad story of two Wyoming ranch hands whose society severely inhibits their twenty-year-long affectionate and sexual relationship. They express their mutual attraction only when utterly alone in the wilderness, at huge expense to their emotional lives and also their relationships with women. Yet Brokeback Mountain may also be instructively seen as a movie that raises disturbing issues about the ways that all American men feel about the appropriate ways to express their fondness for each other, whether or not that fondness is accompanied by sexual desire. Our culture still so scorns sexual desire between two men that there is a common fear that such desire just might accompany any fondness, as well as a fear that other people might jump to conclusions about the implications of two men's attraction to each other.

Homophobia afflicts all males in our society, both those who genuinely are sexually attracted to each other, like Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain, as well as those whose love or simple affection for each other has no sexual dimension to it. For one man to tell another he loves him, some joking around often trivializes the expression, with all the depth of a commercial for Bud Light; if two men embrace, a reassuring punch is often part of the action. Simply because they are men, gay men—in spite of being sexually drawn to each other—may often be no less free of inhibition in expressing affection than are their straight brothers.

As an historian who has studied the shifting history of American men's various sorts of relationships with each other, I think it is critical to note that Brokeback Mountain's Ennis and Jack were nineteen in 1963, the year they met. (So was I coincidentally.) They were shaped by the culture of 1950s America, a culture that was unusually hostile to male intimacy, as I argue in Picturing Men.

When most American boys learned to fear and despise any suggestion of queerness in themselves, Ennis received a peculiarly graphic lesson: His father made it a point to show his nine-year-old son the sexually mutilated corpse of a rancher whose relationship with the man with whom he shared a home had bothered his neighbors. Jack's dream for himself and Ennis—simply to live together in peace—was a modest one, in contrast to the reasonable dreams of men today who want to marry each other. Yet, living when they did, Ennis could only warn Jack that if their feelings for each other were ever to "grab on to us again in the wrong place, wrong time, we'll be dead." Their intimacy had to remain in the shadows, making Brokeback Mountain a tragic tale of unrealized potential.

Picturing Men shows a different world. The lost world of American men that I depict in my work was a time when men clearly were comfortable with each other, feeling free to physically express mutual affection for all to witness—not hidden away on a Brokeback Mountain, but in front of a camera, wholly without the coldness or the reassuringly exaggerated gestures that would come to mark photographs from a later time. Picturing Men does not argue that the lost world was in every way better than the world of men today, but does surely maintain that the earlier world was different, and that our understanding it, and the reasons for its demise, might improve men's relationships nowadays, with each other and with the women in their lives.

Picturing Men is based on my systematic scrutiny of thousands of everyday photographs of two or more American men together, from the dawn of photography before the Civil War until the early 1950s—both studio portraits as well as the snapshots that became common after the invention of roll film in 1888. The book displays well over a hundred representative images, showing men indoors and out, in homes, dorm rooms, and bunk houses, at the beach and in the work place, soldiers, sailors, and civilians, camping, hunting, and posing for athletic team portraits. The ways men posed with each other changed markedly over the time my book surveys, and my interpretation of those changes leads me to an interpretation of drastic changes in the quality of men's various relationships with each other over a century of American history.

ibson_fig_xiiAs cultural evidence, photographs document certain things, yet are wholly silent about others. In looking at this photograph taken around 1915, we see two men doing something we rarely observe nowadays. I refer not simply to their pose, but to the fact that they had their portrait taken together in a photographer's studio, a ritual once widespread among American men but extremely rare today. Many observers may confidently think they see evidence of romance and a likely sexual relationship in this photograph, but that judgment reveals something only about the observer, not the subjects. Without an inscription, we can actually discern nothing from this image regarding a matter that has come to obsess us about relationships: whether the parties are having sex with each other.

What we do observe in this photograph—and in countless others—is male intimacy, two men who were clearly so comfortable with each other that they felt no need to clown around, to reassure themselves and anyone who would see their photograph that nothing culturally scorned was being displayed. Another of history's critical lessons is that change always brings both gain and loss. Picturing Men maintains that certain losses that American men have experienced in their relationships with each other have been severe. It is not simply fictional ranch hands, and not just men sexually drawn to each other, whose lives today are full of unrealized potential.

(Following is a progression of team sport photographs documenting a loss of physical intimacy)

Friday, 29 June 2007

Public Art, or Public Eyesore?

You be the judge.

The fountain in Justin Herman Plaza. This was obviously a very cynical criticism of the area when the fountain was installed with the horrific concrete eyesore that was the Embarcadero Freeway as its backdrop. It brings to mind a kind of an "Escape from New York", or "Soylent Green" harkening back of that particular decade's view of Armageddon. It is a vile piece of trash, somebody please dispose of this.

"Cupid's Span" on the Embarcadero. It is cartoonish, and its ridiculously-scaled proportions do nothing to invite the viewer. This belongs in Disney Land, if anywhere. I'd like to take a crossbow and let an arrow fly at the person responsible for this crap. The artist? Well, he has to live with this on his conscience – that should be sufficient punishment.

I saved the worst for last. This horrid nightmare stands in the foreground of what is actually a beautiful steel structure – The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. What the heck is it? It is frightening. I call it "The Hideous Sea-Zombies". Would someone please set off a couple grenades under its feet? Could it be temporary? Please let it be taken away soon!

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

The Occasion of Sin

This from the BBC.

Pedestrian Street Closures

Act Locally SF has an interesting article here. Thought I'd bring us back to the main topic.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

3 Candidates; 3 Great Ideas

I guess I'm a Libertarian socialist. I think that anytime power is concentrated it inevitably corrupts, whether it be corporate corruption or government corruption. Quite frankly, it is getting ever more challenging to draw that line between big government and corporate dicta. Our founding fathers had a pretty good idea of what tyranny looks like, and the inspired document upon which our democracy was founded does a pretty good job of limiting government powers and ensuring a balance between powers exists. Now, if only we would attempt to follow the U.S. Constitution!

Problem is, most Americans don't even know that they're living under tyranny as we watch these fabricated, controlled and manipulated "debates", by the same corporate media that continue to sell us a bill of goods seeking to perpetuate a fictitious "war on terror". Truthfully, there is no debate in this country, because the "top contenders" all essentially agree on the basics; in other words, they all openly defy the very premises of our Constitution and what a democracy should look like.

Nonetheless, there are three candidates of substance, and three ideas from each that I would like to elucidate. Firstly, there is the idea of allowing the citizenry control over their money:

Rep. Ron Paul is obviously a Libertarian at heart. He is a principled and intelligent man who is opposed to tyranny here and abroad. As much as I consider myself a liberal, progressive, democrat or socialist (and all those adjectives apply under various conditions), I think Rep. Paul might actually do the most to restore our dying democracy. I honestly believe that the fundamental means of restoring democracy is a redistribution of wealth. Whoa!, you say – you don't mean to refer to a communist revolution? Not at all. The way you restore wealth is by abolishing the Federal Reserve and returning to a gold and silver standard. This puts real money back in the hands of the citizenry, and effectively empowers them. This is not an easy thing to accomplish, since it had taken the banking interests roughly sixty years, a great depression and two world wars to wrest our monetary system away from us, and since that time they have been keeping the financial bubble inflated for the past thirty years by creating credit-based economies. This cannot continue indefinitely, however. History has shown that fiat currency can never succeed, as well as it should not since it is intrinsically immoral (it is theft, pure and simple).

Some of my peers have expressed concern over Rep. Paul's assertion of State's rights, by mentioning Jim Crow laws that existed in the South, and the struggle for Civil Rights in the sixties. I think it is a fallacy to attribute the attainment of equal rights to a strong centralized government's insistence upon them. It is fairly clear to me that the Bill of Rights guarantees civil liberties to all men (and women). The individual States must adhere to the overarching Constitution that binds them. In other words, I do not believe that a large, bureaucratic centralized government is any more efficient, democratic or equitable than local and state governments.

Now, all that said…I do believe that the Federal government can be utilized democratically to ensure that certain standards are adhered to. We are living in a different time than when the founding fathers put their pens to parchment. They certainly did not face the specters of global warming and the destruction of the ecosystem, nuclear warfare, corporate globalization nor technological revolutions on a decade by decade basis. Nonetheless, I think we can continue to follow the basic premises of the U.S. Constitution to ensure we do not live under tyranny. Yet the centralized federal government, with the citizenry fully involved along with their representatives in Congress, under complete transparency of operation is able to achieve things that local and state governments, individuals and entrepreneurs cannot do separately. For example, we have the interstate highway system. And then there were the Apollo space missions.

I personally believe that large, fully funded projects that rebuild our manufacturing base are sorely needed to put a shot in the arm of our atrophied economy. They must be pioneering designs which wean us off of fossil fuels and create a more just and equitable future for our progeny. I do not envision any other means of accomplishing such massive projects than a centrally funded and directed campaign led primarily by our democratically elected government. I do not think we can afford to wait for the private sector to patch together a solution to climate change! My pet favorites are the creation of car-free zones in metropolitan areas, the creation of car-free cities, national high speed rail, revamping local transit systems, cleaner and safer nuclear energy and other renewable energy sources. This type of infrastructure will build the economy and support it for generations. This is where Rep. Paul and I diverge – he does not see the value of "big government". I am leery of it too, but I think as long as we have a voice, and as long as government seeks the greater good, wonderful things can be accomplished. These projects should be fully funded without credit (credit-based economies being dissolved), and the government bodies and corporate interests must be limited in size and scope once the infrastructure is put in place, which is only possible when you've got an educated, engaged and empowered citizenry.

The next idea of real value comes from retired Senator Mike Gravel. This is the Fair Tax, and the abolishment of the IRS:

This would not require repealing the questionably constitutional 16th amendment, which essentially allows the federal government the ability to levy direct, unapportioned tax on individual incomes. Yet I think it best to repeal it, since it is so repugnant to the ideals of a free society. The 16th amendment was questionably ratified right at the same time we instituted the Federal Reserve. The federal income tax goes to pay the interest on the federal reserve. Not one penny goes to fund government programs. I could write for chapters about this subject, but I think we can safely say that the IRS is wholly contrary to the spirit of our Constitution and the intent of our founding fathers. The IRS demands transparency from the citizenry, but we are not allowed the same favor. In other words, the IRS has the ability to peer into our private lives where we are required to divulge where we earned every penny, but we have no way of auditing them, or seeing where our taxes go. There is no law in existence, by the way, that requires you to even file a 1040 form. And how does one define income? Income traditionally has implied profits, so working for an employer and earning a wage is not "income", it is fair trade. Is it not? Ironically, it is the very wealthy who actually have "incomes" that are able to weasel their way out of paying income tax due to the myriad loopholes that exist in the tax code. But why should that surprise us? A "fair tax" would be placed on goods and services, so that the more one spends, the more tax one pays. Such a code encourages savings and investment. In order to protect the poorer segments of society, the government would issue prebate checks that pay back the tax paid on essentials. Since the federals reserve system would no longer exist, these tax earnings could be used to directly fund government spending. With all due transparency, the citizenry could then decide where the money is best spent. Senator Gravel also has a plan for direct involvement of citizenry along with our representatives in Congress. These are great ideas for wresting back our democracy and empowering the citizenry. One could expect to see revolutionary changes.

The third idea is from Rep. Dennis Kucinich; it is the repeal of NAFTA, GATT and other "free trade" agreements in favor of fair trade:

These trade pacts are not free trade at all. They have done more to destroy the middle class than the institution of fiat paper currency and individual income tax combined, by sending our high paying jobs overseas. These agreements have also ensured that our national sovereignty is diluted to insignificance. We fought for generations to ensure that we receive equitable pay and benefits through collective bargaining. We have fought for workplace safety and environmental protections. What good is that if big business can move next door and open up factories that require none of those considerations? Ever notice how everything is manufactured in China as of late? Do you think that is just coincidental? China is a totalitarian regime, by the way. How does one compete with that, exactly? And what about small business and individual entrepreneurs? You can forget about that in the global market. We now have an entire class of underemployed and underpaid citizenry.

If you don't realize that the real war that is being waged right now is a "class war", then you are deluded. This has been the real war for almost a century, and it was going on long before that. Yet since 1913 we have been loosing big time. We must wake up and take action before it is too late. The banking cartel will not stop until we are fully under their control. You might think this is an alarmist statement bordering on that of the conspiracy lunatics, but I assure you it is exactly what will transpire if we do not act soon to take back our country. One day you and I could be implanted with chips that allow us to make all our trade and economic transactions without paper money. There will be plenty of people that love the idea. But what that means is every transaction you make will be recorded and your every movement will be tracked. If you do anything to upset the interests of the banking cartel, they will simply turn off your chip and you will not be able to buy or sell. It is brilliant in its simplicity. Resistance will be futile.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Unconstitutional: The War on Civil Liberties. Part 3 of 3

Part Trois

Unconstitutional: The War on Civil Liberties. Part 2 of 3

Part Deux

Unconstitutional: The War on Civil Liberties. Part 1 of 3

The Patriot Act has made us more vulnerable to terrorism, and simultaneously instituted state-sponsored terrorism in the USA. It is one of the most execrable violations of our Constitution and deserves to be abolished in its entirety.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Bush's "Magic" Economic Formula


AlterNet: Bush's "Magic" Economic Formula: The Rich Get Richer; Regular People Lose Ground
By Larry Beinhart, AlterNet
Posted on June 4, 2007, Printed on June 8, 2007

Supposedly we are in a sustained economic recovery and have been since 2002.

Part of this is Bush hot air and the Republican Noise Machine, which the media quotes verbatim.

By a certain measure, however, it's real.

The economy has grown. Corporate profits are at an all-time high. Average income is up. There's lots of money around.

But the recovery has some really strange features. Oddities never before seen in a recovery.

Jobs: During Bush's first term the US actually lost private-sector jobs.

It finally improved in 2005, and now job creation is almost keeping pace with the increase in population. Still, over all, it's the worst record since Hoover, the fellow who presided over the onset of the Great Depression.

How do you have a recovery without creating jobs?

Income: Yes, average income is up during the tenure of the current administration.

The joke about average income is: Bill Gates walks into a bar. The average income of every person in the room immediately goes up 10,000 percent.

But median income, the amount that people in the middle of the group earn, barely budges. So let's look at that figure. Median income is down. The average person makes less now than when Bush came into office.

Not only that, the downward pressure on wages is no longer just a blue-collar issue, it's moved up to white-collar workers, the educated classes, even doctors.

How do you have a recovery when people are making less than before the recovery?

Cost of living: Key factors of the cost of living are much higher than they were six years ago.

In particular, fuel is up 100 percent, higher education costs are up about 44 percent, health care premiums are up 80 percent, and affordable housing is scarce.

Normally, when the cost of living goes up, we have inflation. But we've had low inflation during the Bush years.

How can the cost of living go up while the cost of money stays low?

Here's the most peculiar statistic of all: the Dow Jones index

You may have been hearing that the Dow Jones Index is at an all-time high. It's true. However, it is only 16 percent higher than the day George Bush came into office. By comparison, when Clinton left office the Dow was 320 percent higher than when he came into office.

It's a very rough measure of course, and there are many others. But by that measure, during the Clinton years investment in America's leading business had grown more than three times over. Under Bush it's only grown 16 percent in six years. Since the consumer price index is up 18 percent over the same period, when the new all-time high is adjusted for inflation, growth is effectively below zero.

How can there be a "recovery" in which not even businesses grow?

When a government wants an economy to grow, it throws money at it.

The administration did that with spending on pharmaceuticals, homeland security, and a couple of wars. But their most important weapon of choice was tax cuts for the rich, especially on unearned income, capital gains, inheritance, dividends, and interest.

This was sold, and accepted, on the myth that the rich -- the investing class -- are the most creative and daring members of our society. Just unleash them and they will march off into the wilderness -- actual, urban, or cyber -- with sacks of cash over their shoulders and they will build things!

Factories! Airlines! Housing! Toys! Computers! Undreamed wonders! Entire new civilizations! With jobs! jobs! jobs! Like an Ayn Rand novel!

But that's not what happened.

Because a shortage of cash was not the problem. The country, the world, is awash with cash.

The good, old, risk for rewards version of capitalism -- the burghers invest in a daring sea captain sailing to the Indies -- still exists. In recent years, it's given us FedEx, Wal-Mart, Apple, Microsoft, and Google.

But alongside it, over the last 50 years, the economy of credit has grown up.

In vastly oversimplified terms the credit economy works like this:

You own a house. It's worth $100,000.

Someone buys the house, no money down. They borrow that money. Let's say it's a straight-line 8 percent, 30-year mortgage. Forget closing costs, points, and any other complications -- that's a $220,000 debt. It goes on the bank's books as an asset.

Now you have $100,000. The bank has $220,000 (on paper). The buyer has a house worth $100,000. The bank has a lien on it, but the buyer will be gaining equity, plus he can get a second mortgage and home-improvement and other loans on it.

Again, this is a vast oversimplification, but that transaction has "created" something like $420,000 that is now "in play," as part of the economy.

No "thing" has been created -- no new business, no product, no jobs, no idea, no intellectual property, no entertainment.

But money has been created.

If you buy a dress on your Visa card or organize a consortium to buy a company, the same thing happens -- debt creates money. In every transaction, there's profit to be taken off the top.

A perfect example of the transformation of our society into a credit economy is the change in the way we finance higher education. States, and even cities, used to be in the business of building universities that were free, or nearly so. These were financed, up front, with tax money as an investment in our human infrastructure. Then, in 1965, the student loan program was invented. This changed the higher education business into a debt creation business and created a whole new creditor class, college graduates, who, were handed, along with their diploma, debts of ten to fifty thousand dollars or more.

The number one industry in America today is the money business -- debt swapping. In a closed economy, that might have a positive effect, as people look for something to do with their money.

Not, perhaps, as a general rule, but in an economy like ours, handing out money to rich people is the least effective way to make a healthier, stronger economy that benefits society as a whole. There are two reasons.

The first is that the Ayn Rand fantasy is a fantasy. For the most part, when people with millions of dollars get an extra hundred thousand, or several hundreds of thousands, or even millions, they invest it passively, in financial instruments and real estate.

So we get, for example, a real estate bubble. Which is worse that a bubble because a bubble is symptomatic of the excitement of investing in new, high risk, but high reward enterprises that are producing new things. A housing bubble is symptomatic of lots of money floating around with nowhere productive to go. The other reason is that insofar as investment does go into business, in terms of our society, there's a hole in the bucket. The hole is called globalization.

I'm writing this on a Mac. When I bought it, the money went through American Express (which took a few points) to Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, California, where Steve Jobs dipped in his ladle, then the rest poured out though the hole in the bottom to China, where it was actually made.

That's the economy that the statistics describe.

Lots of money is moving. As it passes through the company, the company profits. The company isn't going to build anything, so profits are spent on executive compensation. The actual work is outsourced (the money flows out), and no jobs are created. Nor does the actual business grow very much either, except as a middle man, taking American money and passing it on to foreign businesses (and oil producers).

At the same time, this creates downward pressure on normal working people.

Remember those old movies, with 200 men at the factory gate? A foreman inside with three jobs to give out, saying, "You. You. And you. The rest of you, go home." Those three lucky stiffs didn't demand health insurance, pensions, or job security.

Now it's India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, the Philippines, Mexico, Honduras, China, Korea, and many others at the gate. American companies tell their workers they have to be competitive. Not only do wages go down, but benefits begin to disappear.

This is combined strong anti-union and anti-worker efforts by government, supporting the anti-union and anti-worker efforts of major corporations.

This may be bad for America as a society, but the people in the money business love it.

Indeed, it is the trick that makes Bushenomics work for people in the money business. That includes anyone who invests in financial instruments. The problem with pumping out money -- printing money -- is that it can create inflation. Money lenders hate inflation. If I loan out money at 8% and by the time the creditor pays it back, inflation is up 8%, then my profit is zero. The profit margin in lending is -- in a significant part -- the difference between the rate of the loan and the rate of inflation.

Really high inflation, and worse, runaway inflation, is, of course, a threat to everyone. But moderate inflation, with rising wages, favors debtors and hurts creditors.

So how can you pump out money while keeping inflation down?

In Bushenomics you do it by keeping a lid on earned income. Even driving it down. Millions upon millions of people earning a little bit less take away from the pressure of a few people earning millions upon millions more.

That, along with, the flood of low cost goods from low wage countries, helps balance out the inflationary pressure of rising costs in certain particular industries, like oil, health care and higher education.

It's not a question of conservatism vs. liberalism. Of government vs. free markets. All economies are, of necessity, mixed. All governments are concerned with the wealth of their nation. Government decisions will always effect how business operates. The question is, does the way government spends and invests create a sounder and healthier society? Or does it merely make certain sectors and classes rich, while hollowing out our economy?

If we are to invest public funds -- through government borrowing or spending or through simply spending tax revenues -- we have to be aware that rich people running around with bags of money won't necessarily do what is good for the wealth of our nation. They may run us into bankruptcy, the way the smartest guys in the room ran Enron into bankruptcy.

Larry Beinhart is the author of Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

View this story online at:

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Saturday, 2 June 2007

When the Formula is Right…

Yet lacking any character, surprise or nuance whatsoever.

Every other realtively cheaply built house looks like every other relatively cheaply built house. You think we could abandon this total lack of creative vision? Had the architects designed some varying styles, and had the budgets allowed the addition of some architectural features, like bay windows, as well as materials that provide a sense of permanence and affluence, this project would have engaged imaginations rather than squandered yet another opportunity to provide better alternatives to sprawl. And finally, why is everything painted the same damn color? That is a stroke of institutionalization that is bound to appeal to no one.

A case where the formula is right, yet lack of organic structure, eccentricity, and the element of surprise just leaves our souls dry and thirsty. If you look at nature, you'll see she does this quite well. All we need do is imitate her.

I think they'll probably fill up nicely, however. I for one, should these homes be affordable, would seriously consider moving here. The advantages of having a decent market within the same block as well as being across the street from BART are quite appealing at my age now, not to mention in a decade or two when I will be older. We'll have to wait and see.


Well, I just got off the phone with Sharon, a nice lady who works at the Solaire rental office. Too bad there are no opportunities for home ownership there; they're all rentals. The property seems nice enough however. I was curious about the lower income housing. They have a few 750 square foot one bedroom units available on the low income plan. My partner and I actually qualify for the adjusted rent even though we both work 40 hours per week, but it only saves a couple hundred dollars per month, putting the rent to roughly $1900. I don't think South San Francisco has rent control, so that figure would likely go up each year. Currently we are paying $1275 for rent here in Chinatown for a one bedroom apartment (built in 1922) that is probably slightly larger. We shan't be moving to Solaire Apartments anytime soon.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Ron Paul : Join The Revolution

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Giuliani.

Money, Banking, and the Federal Reserve

One Final Illustration

Relationship between gold & silver and the monetary system.

USD (Federal Reserve Dollar)
$ (Dollar as a defined, tangible unit based upon silver & gold)

Gold = 654 USD per troy ounce
Silver = 13 USD per troy ounce

The Dollar, or Unit as defined by the Coinage Act of 1792 containing .773 oz. pure silver
(True value = 10 USD)
The Eagle, or 10 Dollar coin per the same Act containing .564 oz. pure gold
(True value = 369 USD)
You will note that the relationship between gold and silver is no longer valued at the same ratio.

Yet interestingly enough, we no longer mint the same coins – they have been replaced with Silver Eagles and Gold Eagles as follows:

1 Troy Ounce Silver Eagle = 13 USD
Face Value = $1 (or 1.3, 1792-1964 Silver Dollars)

0.10 ounce American Gold Eagle coin = 65 USD
Face value = $5 (Note that 13 times 5 is 65)

0.25 ounce American Gold Eagle = 164 USD
Face value = $10 (The appropriate denomination should be $12-1/2)

0.50 ounce American Gold Eagle = 327 USD
Face value = $25 (Note that 13 times 25 is 325)

1 Troy Ounce Gold Eagle = 654 USD
Face value = $50 (Note that 13 times 50 is 650)

You can see immediately the relationship between the denominations. Now these coins are minted for investors and collectors, and they are composed of purer metals than coins made for circulation. As you can see, the quarter ounce Gold Eagle falls out of place with its denominational value of ten dollars, but the rest calculate pretty well to the current price of silver and gold. Now you'd be lucky to find these coins anywhere for the actual USD prices. The current selling prices are:

$1 Silver Eagle = 15 USD
$5 Gold Eagle = 75 USD
$10 Gold Eagle = 180 USD
$25 Gold Eagle = 350 USD
$50 Gold Eagle = 700 USD

I'd suggest investing in gold and silver since these metals will always hold their value. When the Chinese come knocking on our door asking to collect the One Trillion Dollars we owe them, you will still own something of value. Rep. Ron Paul before the U.S. House of Representatives addresses this very issue. I commend this article to you. By the way, Rep. Paul is a true Republican running on a true conservative platform. I'd vote for him. He is being marginalized by the media in he same way Kucinich and Gravel have been.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Just How Much Cash Are We Talking About?

Try to buy one of these things and it will set you back 15-20 dollars, yet the denomination of the coin is one dollar.

(Fictional Scenario Follows)

I was just thinking about money, can you imagine that? Funny how we tend to dwell on those things we don't have…

Anyhow, Supposing we had a machine that could transport us through a multi-dimensional universe and we found ourselves in Geoftopia (my imaginary world), I occasionally muse upon what it might look and feel like. Now Geoftopia is not Utopia, it is bound by those very same universal physical principles that bind us here on 21st century earth; bad things and unexpected things happen, there still is death and taxes; people still are people, and they are capable of doing shitty things to each other. But I am President of the U.S. of A., Congress has seen my wisdom, the people are behind me, and all eight planks of my platform have been made into law with a few concessions and adaptations, implemented to varying degrees of success, and we have begun to work to build a new future that promises to be one of the most free, just and equitable societies ever created by civilization. Our founding fathers (and mum's too) have finally stopped turning in their graves and are at peaceful rest. (I can dream, can't I?)

So in my internal reality, I was thinking about cash, moola, dinero. I am thinking about how much I might possess, how much it might be worth, and even what it might look like. I'm imagining my palms laced with silver, twenty dollar gold pieces and shiny, coppery pennies that can actually buy you something.

As far as possessing money, nowadays there's really no point in it unless you're saving up to buy something, 'cause it's not worth anything in and of itself. But gold and silver will always be worth something, they have inherent value. There's a stability to that kind of money that makes possession of it desirable. Of course the true, spiritual value of money is not the money itself, it is the power that it wields – namely the ability to buy things, trade things and create things we want. But saving for a rainy day, one's inevitable old age and leaving an inheritance of value to one's progeny is not just gratifying, it is savvy and altruistic. On a large scale, such saving allows each progressive generation to one-up the previous one. Is that not the whole idea here?

We have simply embraced our oppressive servitude for momentary pleasures and the hollow void of empty consumerism, and we leave our children mired deeper in debt, with little concern for the world they'll inherit. We have debased ourselves and betrayed our true inheritance as children of God, and refusing to act as responsible citizens when we accept anything less than liberty. What good is this life without liberty? We might as well be dogs living the way we do with no thought for the future, satisfying our own needs with no thought for our brothers. Only dogs have an excuse, and might actually show more love than what we routinely do. We may not be worthy of our inheritance after all.

But I digress. We are in Geoftopia right now, where people are becoming accustomed to the responsibilities inherent to liberty and are not averse to sacrificing momentary pleasure to building a more just and equitable future for their children. But ironically, along with such uncomfortable adjustment and occasional pain that growth brings, we find ourselves liberated, empowered and more fully human.

After the dissolution of the financial oligarchy and the return to the gold and silver-based currencies, there was a rapid deflationary period. Of course, wages decreased simultaneously, the minimum wage was no longer held in place, and instead labor unions were allowed to organize (with the N.L.R.B. actually representing labor for a change). Since the establishment of a Universal Healthcare Insurance had occurred prior to the monetary reforms, employers had already saved millions, labor relations improved immensely without the health insurance obstacle, employees saw their wages increase and more jobs were created as companies reinvested the fortunes that were being siphoned off to the "health for profit" industries. Labor unions were then allowed to concentrate their efforts on issues of workplace safety, seniority, and job classifications, along with wage negotiations that produced results.

People that work in service sector jobs that made wages close to $20 per hour are currently making around $1.50 per hour, but the purchasing power of $1.50 is closer to what $30 bought one previously. One does not see many $100 bills any longer, unless they're picking up their pay (which employers must pay in cash on a biweekly or semi-monthly period mandated by law). The same service sector worker can expect to earn roughly $120 biweekly (equal to $2400 prior to reform). Even though this same worker has essentially seen a real pay increase of close to 100 percent due to monetary and tax reform, he now has to pay a quarter on the dollar for goods and services, but there are "prebate" cheques from the government for "necessities" that compensate for lower paid workers. The net result is the average worker has seen his spending power increase dramatically, and the economy has grown exponentially as a result, since most of these people were previously living at subsistence levels and can now invest in things like college educations for their kids. Billionaires are now millionaires, but they're still rich, and if they don't feel like giving the government a quarter for every dollar spent on their next Ferrari, they can always invest their money or save it.

There are no longer any payroll taxes since the IRS was dissolved. All government programs are now financed by a national tax on goods and services, it is a hefty tax equal to a quarter on the dollar, but it is based on the Fair Tax Code and fully transparent. In other words, Joe Citizen can actually see where his tax goes and what it funds. As a result, the military-industrial complex took a severe beating. People figured they already have enough nuclear warheads to unleash Armageddon, and enough is enough. Instead, the existing industrial sector is undergoing a vast "retooling" to maintain employment and reinvest in infrastructure that will provide energy, transport and communications and allow the economy to thrive for years into the future – and all while looking at sustainable, ecologically intelligent means of doing so. The States get a portion of the tax as well, so there is no longer any justification for a separate State Income Tax. Social Security Reform cinched up the existing money and prevented it from ever being used for anything other than payments, and the remaining funding now comes from the sole National Tax. Citizens are allowed to make direct contributions towards their own retirement as well, which they have begun to do now that they have discretionary income.

Lastly, it was decided that the days of religious meddling would be put to a quick rest. Separation of Church and State was fully comprehended. The government would no longer be in the business of determining morality, and God would be respectably given his due place as Creator of the Universe and taken off currency. No more mottos of "In God We Trust" (all others pay cash). No more idolatry on our coins. Instead, we began to trust one another, and with each passing day, new-found freedoms we had all but forgotten empowered us to become more fully human. The government had become "of, by and for the people". Never in history had man been so in charge of his fate. The prospects of an equitable future seemed imminent.