Sunday, March 30, 2008

A late night thought

So I'm right around my forth decade of life and I just had a thought about my parents generation that I wanted to flesh out a bit.

It seems to me that my parent's generation defined themselves by what they did for a living. I've always been of the opinion that it doesn't really matter what you do to make money as long as you're able to, in the immortal words of our 43rd President, "put food on your family". But my parents, and maybe your parents, would ask immediately following any introduction, "so what do you do?"

As a librarian and especially as a public librarian, we're not exactly pulling down the big bucks. But there's so much more to me than my work world. I don't understand the drive to define myself by what I do to make ends meet. I'm thankful that I don't have to do anything shady for a living, and that's a rare privilege these days. But how many of us are so wild about librarianship that we'd do it anyway even if we won Powerball? Of course, for me to win Powerball would require a magical wind to blow the winning ticket into my hand from the mystical heavens.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Civil unrest: coming soon to a city near you

Charlie Rose had John Hofmeister, President of Shell Oil on last night. Some of what the guy said seemed a bit delusional, such as his comment that in the U.S. we pay the full cost of fuel rather than benefiting from the subsidies that many other nations provide in the interest of economic growth. Our fossil fuel industry is heavily subsidized, so I don't know what he's talking about there. But the part that I found interesting is when he says that the elephant in the room that politicians aren't talking about is that without additional authorization for drilling, urban centers in the U.S. are ripe for massive civil unrest. I've often thought that as the price of getting to work and feeding our families continues to rise, and the number of home mortgage defaults increases, we may experience a time not far off that will make the race riots of the 60s seem tame. It was eerie having my concerns validated by the president of a major oil company.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Lest we forget the lies...

Just wanted to link to this blog post that I read earlier today.

Five Years Of Hell In Iraq

I think it is important for us to remember the lies that got us there. And the liars who told them.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

laissez-faire huh?

Conservatives like to advocate laissez-faire economic policies. "Let the market solve its own problems," they like to say. But now, with the Bear Sterns bail-out we find that the spirit of rugged individualism isn't really for the Wall Street set. Wealthy investors apparently deserve the very best in government economic intervention - to the tune of a $30 billion dollar guarantee.

I'm concerned about this. I'm afraid that we could be creating a "culture of dependency" among the super wealthy. All of those CEOs, investment bankers, and money managers who are making tens (and sometimes hundreds) of millions of dollars per year are supposed to at least be smart. Turns out, even at that rate of pay these folks can't keep a business afloat. And we're not talking rocket science here. Banking = save money for people - pay low interest + loan money to people - charge high interest. No brainer, right? Then you pay some guys millions and millions of dollars to see to it that this basic system doesn't fail. A bank going under should be about as likely a Las Vegas casino going on a year long loosing streak. But they managed it!

Fortunately our Federal Government has the Leave No Fat-Cat Behind program (fully funded of course) so that the Republican Party can continue fund raising for John McCain. While the bottom drops out of the housing market and most Americans are watching their assets dissolve, Wall Street gets it's bail-out.

To top it all off, the Fed cuts interest rates, in an attempt to calm Wall Street's nerves, but also causing the inflation rate to increase, the dollar to drop against foreign currency even further, and food and fuel prices to increase. Here - just take my wallet you bastards.

Oh - and Happy $3 trillion dollar (yes with a "T") Iraq War Anniversary baby. No, I didn't get you anything.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Environmental disarray

Many of you may have seen or heard about this recent news topic. Drugs in water causing troubling problems to fish, wildlife outlines the chemical contamination that we live with on a daily basis now. Some of the most prevalent drugs being found in the water supply are anti-depressant drugs that have been prescribed as if they are simply part of living in this culture.

But now I've found this wonderfully well documented blog post about the cover-up of studies that show that the most widely prescribed of the anti-depressant drugs are actually no more effective than placebos (sugar pills). The post, entitled Depressing News for SSRI Drugs: They Don’t Work After All… shows that there has been a cover-up by the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA. They've been "cherry-picking" the studies and burying the many studies that have reported that SSRI drugs are simply not effective at all.

So now the question is - should we still be outraged that we're drinking SSRIs if they turn out to be ineffective anyway? Well of course we should. All we really know is that they don't work as anti-depressants. We don't yet know what those chemicals actually ARE capable of doing. And you can bet that you won't get the straight story from the FDA.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Further evidence

Today is the big day. The one where Barack Obama could put Hillary Clinton away, but now that isn't looking very likely. In Ohio Clinton is talking up the wink and nod that a top Obama adviser apparently gave to the Canadian government regarding NAFTA. The memo in question does not quote any Obama adviser but interprets what was said as meaning that his talk about renegotiating NAFTA is just political positioning. Obama had better get control of his advisers - but what do you expect from a Professor of Economics from the University of Chicago? Why have a guy like that on your economic team in the first place?

But today what's really upsetting me is that while in Texas the big message from Hillary has been about Hugo Chavez. She's going on about how Chavez is siding with "terrorists" in Colombia. This is such a completely disingenuous argument, and really forces me to see her as an overtly right wing foreign policy nut. The government of Columbia is an authoritarian nightmare. The leftist guerrillas that have the support of many of Colombia's neighbors have been fighting for a more socialist society for years. Once again, it seems as though anyone fighting for a more equitable society can be labeled "terrorist" by the U.S. and its "folly-ticians"