October 27th, 2008

The guilty

From the not entirely fair and balanced Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens was convicted of seven corruption charges Monday in a trial that threatened to end the 40-year career of Alaska’s political patriarch in disgrace. The verdict, coming barely a week before Election Day, increased Stevens’ difficulty in winning what already was a difficult race against Democratic challenger Mark Begich. Democrats hope to seize the once reliably Republican seat as part of their bid for a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Stevens, 84, was convicted of all the felony charges he faced of lying about free home renovations and other gifts from a wealthy oil contractor. Jurors began deliberating last week.

Nuff said.

Added: As great grey said: Pics are important. This guy is toast.

October 26th, 2008

Kill your modem?

In 1978 I got rid of my TV set; just as cable TV, public access and all was the rage. I’ve never regretted it. I’ve never watched an episode of Murphy Brown, Bill Cosby, Friends, The West Wing, Mad Men or a canned History Channel piece [it's a living ehh Pukeface?], only a few baseball games with friends at an Irish bar in Brooklyn. I have read more than I would have if I had been watching TV. I am beginning to think that The Internet is quickly becoming nothing more than what TV was in the 1970′s, a time waster – so maybe it’s time to pull the plug? Just thinking out loud.

October 26th, 2008

Take a hard look back to the 60′s and the 30′s

Suck it up all you “liberals.” I’m sick and tired of hearing about how Barak Obama might turn out to be something other than the corporate hack he is. After all, we went through the same game of “hope” with Democrat Bill Clinton who set the stage for Bush-the-Lesser. Obama flopped on FISA – no small potatoes when I think about my civil rights going down the drain with that vote – made even more ominous considering that Obama pleged to oppose FISA and Telcom immunity when he was running in the primaries; no doubt a taste of things to come. Obama voted for the so called “bank bailout,” an ill concieved plan devoid of regulation and more than a little bit friendly (no strings attached) to the investment houses that “dorked up” big time ($700-billion+ friendly). And what was Obama’s position on Palestine, Israel and the “2-state solution” before he ran for President (hint – another flip-flop)? The NEW DEAL “happened” because of pressure from folks who thought that labor was more important than capital. Obama has been bought and paid for by “capital interests.” If he wins, I suspect the only way to put working men and women on a level playing field with the capitalists will be to “out” Obama. That’s what it took with FDR – he didn’t come up with the “New Deal” because he was a visionary – FDR was worried about the power of the people. Now-a-days, I fear, things could really get ugly because, I would posit, legislation passed, by OUR representatives, and signed into law by Bush, since 911 will brand almost any activity that opposes the power of the Federal Government and in many cases “private capital interests” a “terrorist action.” Good luck to us all.

October 26th, 2008

The compassion

Daniel Goleman did a talk in 2007 on TED on compassion and empathy, and in it, he described an experiment that was done earlier. Students were given a bible text with the assignment to prepare and do a sermon about that bible text. One half of the students were given the “good Samaritan” text, the others a random bible text. As they walked to another building for them to actually do their sermon, they passed a man sitting on the ground, moaning, clearly in need, and the question was of course, would they help, and would the musing on the good Samaritan text made more students help the stranger or not.

It turned out there was no difference at all, and that in fact the determining factor to help or not turned out to be how much of a hurry the student in case felt, how much absorbed in what (s)he was going to do. Not only that, but he also postulates that we, as humans are wired by default to empathise and help, feeling ourselves the suffering we see others having and feeling the need to relieve the others.

That is quite an interesting finding, as in a way it tells us the way we stress ourselves, more, faster, bigger, we are suppressing our empathy, our ability for compassion and help.

October 23rd, 2008

(if) The world could vote

The world can’t, and I am the first one to say that inhabitants of a country should be the only ones who elect their representatives. As in, erm, you get what you deserve, and, no invasion, thank you very much. Still, claiming to be the last superpower with supreme moral values does come with obligations doesn’t it? So here is how that is perceived outside of America’s legal borders (yes, really!). Please note the irrelevance of one label in the graph and the indecisiveness of one rather large and let’s say involved country. As Diane would say: 90 days.

October 20th, 2008

The bank bailout revisited

ING staock

ING stock

As Citykid wrote: “I do not believe in Socialism for the Banks and Capitalism for the rest of us”. So true. But it can be handled differently too. Now, for those of you who read this blog now and then and see me trying to connect some dots between my tiny country and the US, those tries probably look a bit “mouse and elephant walk over bridge-mouse says: oh my how we stomp!” like, and actually, I agree. Still, Dutch ING bank (who some of you might know as ING-direct in the US and the UK) is the one but largest consumer bank and one of the top 20 financial institutions in the world. It’s core tier one ration dropped below the minimum requirements and they knocked on this tiny countries door. Here is the deal that came out of it:

  • The state will inject 10 bln Euro’s in ING ($13.5 bln).
  • The state will get two board seats, having veto rights on important issues such as divident, board salaries and acquisitions.
  • The board members will not get any bonuses (and you and I know these bonuses are far far bigger than regular salaries).
  • The board members will get severely limited step down packages (maxed to one year salary).
  • The bank needs to repay this with an 8.5% interest rate, where the state acquires this money through secure and now very wanted state loans paying out 4%.

Most people seem to think this is a pretty good deal for the taxpayer. What do you think, especially when compared with the Paulson’s bailout plan?

What’s kinda funny is that the state has now a serious stake in two competing bank and insurance heavyweights.

October 17th, 2008

The sun

Ok, ok, let’s step away for a second from the elections and the crisis. As if there isn’t enough going on on a smaller, and larger scale. In the latter category: our sun. Stunning pictures of our closest star, published through the Boston Globe.

The sun

The sun

Unfortunately the comment section derailed into a pro-contra “God” thing. I suggest you simply enjoy the 21 stunning images of our beautiful environment. And yes, I know these are seriously postprocessed.

October 15th, 2008

Is Ralph Nader a kook?

“The United States effectively has a one-party system, the business party, with two factions, Republicans and Democrats.” – Noam Chomsky

Both Republicans and Democrats over the years have been critical of Nader. Of late some Democrats, who would proudly wear the badge “liberal,” have directed their anger at Nader in the form of derogatory comments that would do Rush Limbaugh and others of his ilk proud. Just how nutty and arrogant is Nader, you tell me? Seems to me that Nader’s suggestions on how to handle our financial crisis is better informed and thought out than those of candidates Obama or McCain. Ralph was on PBS last night, “The News Hour,” and you can listen to the audio here (link is an MP3 and runs about 10 minutes):

“Presidential candidate Ralph Nader speaks with the NewsHour’s Ray Suarez about his latest bid for the White House and discusses his platform on the critical issues facing the country this election year.”

FWIW The News Hour also ran a story about the corporate party candidates last night, it is available here (MP3 link) and if you listen closely you might just hear the ticker-tape in the background. I think it provides an interesting contrast to Suarez’s interview with Nader:

“Kwame Holman reports on the latest news from the campaign trail”

October 14th, 2008

The language litmus

Today I read a somewhat simplistic, but nonetheless sensible statement in a local newspaper, found in the user submitted comments on an article about the Austrian far-right politician Jörg Haider, who was killed last week in a one-sided car accident (read: overtaking another car at 90 mph in fog, where 45 was allowed). It is a bit hard to translate, but I’ll do my best.

A person using words like “the people”, “own identity”, “nation” and “nationalism”, “adapt” and “full” (y-t: immigration context)…, someone like that should be regarded with healthy mistrust. That is somebody looking for power. For him that is, not for you.

He does not strive for a healthy, cooperative future. He wants destruction, trouble and misery. People using those words in public speaches deserve your sceptism. It is allowed, needed. They are messing with fire.

Those people reveal themselves through their use of language. Language is important, it tells us more than we think (..) It is your ability to understand the usage of language that matters, and your right to choose. Ignore these people. It is allowed, needed. It doesn’t require rocket science.

I am sure we see the connections here.

October 13th, 2008

The OpenOffice suite revisited

Today OpenOffice.org 3.0, the better and cheaper (free, as in free beer) office suite was released. And yes, contrary to the “competition”, it runs on Linux too, of course. Get it today. And it supports the dreaded docx format too. If you want to know more about why I like this over MS, see my earlier writings.

PS: The site is heavily overloaded at the moment. That will be better in a few hours.

Apologies – our website is struggling to cope with the unprecedented demand for the new release 3.0 of OpenOffice.org. The technical teams are trying to come up with a solution. Thank you for your patience.