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Showing posts from April, 2007

Bloggers for Gravel

A relatively old, white haired man from Alaska, who many people had never heard of one week ago, has become an instant hit with bloggers across the internet. Mike Gravel, former Senator from Alaska, made a fiery appearance at the Democratic primary debate on MSNBC last week. The difference between Gravel and all of the other candidates is that Gravel said what everyone deep down wants to say, but is scared of the negative implications. His speech was not pre-written by some elite public relations firm and he was not afraid to call out the other candidates for being fake tools of the political system. Go over to digg or reddit today and you'll see that members of these social networks have made a clear endorsement of Gravel for president in 2008.

Mike Gravel struck a chord with bloggers because he stands for everything that politics in the United States today is not. For example, during the debate he made this comment about getting the nomination:

What will make a difference in this …

Media Circus

Without a doubt, The Daily Show and Colbert Report are the smartest political shows on TV. Maybe its because the shows are hilarious... or maybe its because the hosts are fun loving guys. My opinion is that these shows tell stories in an entertaining, funny and accurate way. I was extremely happy to see John Stewart do a story about the media re-action to the Virginia Tech shooting and how poor their coverage really was.

There you have it. The perfect compilation of clips demonstrating exactly how bad cable TV news in the United States really is. The problem? They think they did a great job, and are likely to continue providing us with the same, terrible coverage far into the future.

Freak Out Factor

Bill O'Reilly is up to no good again. On last night's episode of the O'Reilly factor Bill takes so cheap shots at acclaimed journalist Bill Moyers. O'Reilly claims that he was unfairly portrayed in a documentary Moyers made about the Iraq War and US foreign policy. The irony is that O'Reilly has little credibility to make the argument that he is being unfairly portrayed, since the premise of his show (and network for that matter) is to do exactly that. when journalism professor and Fox News contributer Jane Hall disagrees with O'Reilly he goes absolutely crazy.

My favorite part of the video is near the end when O'Reilly says, "you don't justify bad behavior by pointing to other bad behavior," because in essence, that is exactly what this little rant seeks to accomplish. O'Reilly is trying to boost his own credibility by making himself look like a victim of the "secular progressive far left." The truth is, Moyers is a respected jou…

Lunch Meat Crimes

Fox News has done a lot of outrageous things over the years, and when you think it can't get any worse, it does. Bloggers over at Think Progress broke this story yesterday morning and thanks to websites like digg and reddit it has proliferated like crazy. Last week in Maine middle school students students played a dirty prank on a group of Somalian Muslims by putting a ham steak next to them in order to offend them. The school filed a report calling the incident a hate crime since it was targeted toward a specific group of people based on religious and cultural grounds. Blogger Nicholas Plagman wrote a satirical parody about the situation which was posted over at Associated Content. He completely fabricated all quotes and details, changing the ham steak into a ham sandwich and discussing the school's plan to create "an anti-ham response plan."

On Tuesday morning Fox and Friends reported on Plagman's satirical article and presented it as real news, showing offensi…

Everybody Loves Hillary

After seeing the first Democratic primary debate on MSNBC yesterday, it became clear why Hillary Clinton is the front runner in the Democratic primary and why she is a real force to be reckoned with. Not only does Hillary have a huge competitive advantage with Bill Clinton at her side, but she is picking up some extremely valuable endorsements from outside of the beltway. Consider the following, Brian Williams asked Clinton this question toward the end of the debate: Overall, is Wal-Mart a good or bad thing for the United States of America? And the Senator's response:

Well, it's a mixed blessing... when Wal-Mart started, it brought goods into rural areas, like rural Arkansas where I was happy to live for 18 years. And it gave people a chance to stretch their dollar further. But as they grew much bigger, though, they have raised serious questions about the responsibility of corporations and how they need to be a leader when it comes to providing health care and having safe worki…

Supply Squeeze

Wall Street has not been a fan of Wal-Mart over the past several years, and the company's poor stock performance reflects it. Maybe Lee Scott is a poor manager, maybe Wal-Mart has run out of room to grow, or maybe anti-Wal-Mart lobbies have caused the company to take a big hit. Regardless, investors have another reason to hate Wal-Mart. Doing business with the world's largest company is a double edge sword. On the one hand, Wal-Mart squeezes every penny out of its suppliers in order to pass the savings onto the consumer, so suppliers see their margins get crushed; but on the other hand, Wal-Mart is so massive that suppliers make up for the small margins through volume.

Research published by Forbes now confirms exactly how suppliers are affected by their relationship with Wal-Mart. Unsurprisingly, the more that a company does business with Wal-Mart, and the more Wal-Mart exploits that supplier, and the lower their average profit margins are. Based on the research from Forbes:


Betting on Congress

After numerous unsuccessful tries, Bill Frist was able to pass his Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act by sneaking it into a port security bill that had to be voted on. Frist had so many problems getting UIGEA passed because all of the Democrats, and enough Republicans thought he was wrong. In fact, the only explanation for Frist's obsession with online gambling is his opposition on moral grounds. Think about it... corporate lobbies loved Frist because he had a nearly-perfect voting record on big business. He voted against a bill that would take away tax breaks for companies that outsource and he voted for the controversial bankruptcy bill in 2005. Frist also loved free trade. He voted for free trade agreements with Central America, Oman, Singapore, Chile, and just about everywhere else where it was proposed.

The thing about online gambling is that it is a multi-billion dollar industry - and all of that economic activity takes place outside of the United States. Since online…

Its All Oil

I found a disturbing article today. I knew Americans were pretty ignorant when it came to the economics of oil, but I didn't know things were this bad.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--According to a nationwide online survey released today, 72 percent of the American public does not know that conventional plastic is made from petroleum products, primarily oil. The survey was conducted by national online market research firm InsightExpress for Telles(TM), a joint venture of Metabolix, Inc. (NASDAQ: MBLX), a company using bioscience to provide clean solutions for plastics, fuels and chemicals, and Archer Daniels Midland (NYSE: ADM), one of the world's largest agricultural processors and the world leader in BioEnergy.
Anyone who has seen An Inconvenient Truth probably remembers the cartoon propaganda that oil companies used to use to show Americans all the wonderful things that can be made from oil, everything from jet fuel to cosmetics. Yes folks, your cosmetics are made from th…

Telecom Takeover

This is a pretty old clip from the Colbert Report, but it makes a good point about the telecom industry in America today. Even though these companies want consumers to believe that consolidation leads to lower prices for customers (which may or may not be true) it also leads to worse service and worse support. Anyone who reads Consumerist regularly knows that there are a handful of companies that are on there every day: Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Sprint Nextel, Time Warner Cable and a couple of banks, airlines, and all three credit reporting agencies. The point is... the telecom industry has become so consolidated that consumers are starting to feel the pain. The next time Verizon screws up your bill, what are you going to do? Switch to AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile? Its not as if any of those companies offer outstanding service or support either. And by the way... if consolidation reduces costs for consumers so much, why is Comcast increasing cable rates at the fastest pace in histo…

Death to Europeans

Anyone who is still wondering why US/EU relations are abysmally poor should watch the testimony that Dana Rohrabacher (Republican, CA) gave during a Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Human Rights last Tuesday. Rohrabacher basically makes the argument that in times of war, rule of law can be broken if it means protecting a lot of lives. When a conservative member of the EU parliament asks Rohrabacher if the ends always justify the means, the Republican responds by saying that he hopes the families of those who disagree with him suffer from a terrorist attack.

How good does this make us look to the Europeans? We are telling them we want to break the law and we wish death on them for disagreeing with us. Not good.

Clinton Comeback

Hillary Clinton is getting a big boost by an unlikely politician... George W. Bush. The current president's approval rating is at rock bottom and Americans are ready to see him go. In fact, Americans are so sick of George Bush right now that have told pollsters that they miss former President Bill Clinton. People tend to have short-term memories, and thinking about the country a decade ago gives a lot of us a warm feeling inside. It might be hard to remember, but Clinton's approval rating was high - so high, in fact, that he was more popular when he left office than when he took it in 1993 (extremely rare for presidents).

Hillary Clinton is now starting to exploit her husband's popularity. Recently, she said that she would appoint him as "ambassador to the world" if elected president. In this position, Bill would have the privilege of traveling the globe and making friends with all the people George Bush pushed away. According to Bill Press, a popular liberal auth…

Free Gasoline

Over the weekend, the auto section of the Toronto Star ran an article by Jim Kenzie that really caught a lot of people off guard. According to Kenzie, automakers have the capability to produce fuel efficient vehicles, but they aren't. Remember this chart Al Gore showed during An Inconvenient Truth?

GM, Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen and other major auto companies haven't thrown in the towel and stopped selling cars places in like the European Union and Japan. They have developed and sold cars that meet the fuel regulations. If these cars are available and the technology to build them exists, why aren't there many in the United States? The answer is simple: there is no demand. According to Kenzie:

Bottom line: the car industry can build more efficient vehicles, and is in fact doing so. So, why don't we buy more of them? Because, as I have said a million times, gasoline is basically free. Despite all the whining, gasoline is as cheap now as it has ever been, on an inflation-adju…

Frequent Fliers

For some reasons a lot of corporations have decided that they key to success is reducing costs and maximizing earnings, regardless of the means. This has led to budget-cutting, outsourcing, lay-offs, and poor customer experiences. Yet in at least one industry the single company that defies all of these norms has become the single most successful company in that industry. A blogger named Dan posted a story over at Consumerist that clearly demonstrates this point:

My family flew to Orlando on Wednesday, April 11 on Southwest Airlines. We had to switch planes at Chicago Midway. Well we got stuck on the taxiway for three hours waiting to get de-iced. Actually it was not as unpleasant as it could have been. The pilot kept us informed (he even said at time he would pull back into the gate if we were there much longer) and the flight crew were very helpful and understanding. No one got upset, we all just tried to make the best of it.

Today I had a nice surprise when I brought in the mail. Ever…

Pathetic Protests

I was recently invited to an event on Facebook called "Don't Pump Gas on May 15th." The idea is to protest against big oil companies for ripping us off on gasoline prices. According to the organizers of this event, there are two options we consumers have to protest high gasoline prices. Option #1: Don't pump ANY gasoline on May 15, 2007. Option #2: Never buy any gasoline from Exxon Mobile stations. The organizers of this event also concede that this little protest is unlikely to have a economic impact, but the goal is to raise awareness among the masses. On their Facebook page, the organizers have included this little disclaimer:

---If you agree (which, I REALLY can't see why you wouldn't)- TELL EVERYONE TO DO THE SAME!!!

--- AND IF YOU DON'T AGREE: JUST DON'T PARTICIPATE- NOBODY WANTS TO HEAR YOUR SMART A** COMMENTS!!! This is NOT a group for debates!Since I am not allowed to make my argument on the group's page, I will have to make it here. So, or…

Unacceptable Behavior

Why does the media continue to lead us to believe that we live in a perfect country, and that anyone who does something bad is a screwed up outsider? Fox News seems to be especially good at belittling anyone who they don't consider to be a "good American." I personally want to say that I am disgusted by the things these three men (Douglas Kennedy, Geraldo Rivera, and Bo Dietl) had to say on Fox today.

It is one thing to say that Cho Seung-hui was in mental and emotional pain when he committed his crimes - but it is something else to say that the medication he was taking caused him to do it. According to Douglas Kennedy, who has no medical training I should add, selective serotonin rebuke inhibitors (Prozak, Lexapro, Celexa, Paxil, Zoloft, etc.) and serotonin-norepinephrine rebuke inhibitors (Effexor, Cymbalta, etc.) do absolutely nothing to help anyone. Kennedy goes on a rant saying that these drugs transform perfectly normal people into monsters who are numbed of emotion…

Hide the Ammo

There are some people in America who really love their guns. The United States is one of the easiest places in the developed world to purchase a gun and it is also the developed country with some of the worst gun crimes. Nevertheless just about everyone in America agrees on something: the current gun laws suck. Fine. The left likes to argue that we should make guns harder or impossible to purchase and the right thinks we should force everyone in America to be packing heat. Both arguments have their flaws, but the increased number of guns theory has a few logistical flaws that makes its effectiveness questionable, and neither even attempt to stop crime before it happens.

So banning guns probably isn't going to do much. After all, drugs, gambling, and bootleg DVDs are all illegal in the United States, but that doesn't stop anyone from buying drugs or playing some underground poker. Most gun crimes are committed by a criminal who didn't purchase the gun he/she used (either sto…

Killer Agendas

The shooting at Virginia Tech has everyone talking. There are a lot of important topics being discussed: whether Virginia's gun laws are too lax and why the VT police did such a poor job responding to the first shooting. The problem is that these issues don't address why Cho Seung-hui committed the killings, they only address the issue of why he was able to do it. Having the manager of the gun shop where the weapons were purchased go on Dateline NBC is pointless. Regardless of what you think about gun control, that particular gun shop did not commit a crime, they only went about business as normal. Why did the police respond to slowly and fail to arrest Cho Seun-hui after the first crime? Thats a perfectly good question and should be looked into; but there are far too many blaming lax police and lax gun laws on the massacre. These people are using a tragedy to progress their agendas. While not new, its still a shame.

Then you have people like Dr. Phil McGraw claiming that viole…

Smart Satire

The Pew Research Center published an intriguing report about public knowledge of current affairs a few days ago. The overall results aren't that surprising - Americans don't know very much about current events. But there are a few things about this report I find especially interesting. Asking who the public knows, Pew came out with the following results:

Not so surprising that Arnold Schwarzenegger (being a former movie star) and Hilary Clinton (getting more media attention than just about anyone in politics) are widely known. What I think is problematic is that less than half of Americans know who Nancy Pelosi, Scooter Libby, and Robert Gates is. Why is this an issue? Because in order to know who Arnold or Hilary is you just have to turn the TV on once in a while or glance at the tabloids at the grocery store. But in order to know Pelosi, Libby, or Gates, you have to make at least some effort to follow news and current events. Also surprising... only 69% of Americans can name …

Exploitation University

When Sean O'Donnell committed suicide because because of the pressure over debt, people started to wonder how a 21 year old was able to rack up 12,500 dollars in credit card debt in the first place. The answer is simple: exploitation. Banks and other financial service companies make their biggest profits by preying on people who are too poor or don't know any better. Ever seen one of those payday advance places? Ever wonder why they are only in urban areas and not upscale suburbs? These companies give small loans (usually a few hundred dollars) to poverty-stricken people who need the money just to put food on the table; they typically charge interest rates between 390%-790%. That means if you borrow 100 bucks, you will have to pay between 400 and 800 dollars back to the cash advance company. No one in their right mind would take such a stupid loan, right? Sadly, cash advance is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States.

And then there are credit cards marketed…

Media Genocide

I have been a pretty tough critic of American media over the past few months, and I do not plan to stop. The Genocide Intervention Fund put together a solid TV advertisement to expose the sad state of our media. I think the fact that this non-profit is standing up to the corporate media is great. Unfortunately, NBC, ABC, and CBS all refused to air the commercial.

TV news in this country has become an absolute joke. Calling what these stations cover "news" might even be stretching it. In June 2005, the Genocide Intervention Fund compared the amount coverage given to three popular stories and the amount of coverage given to Darfur. The six news stations are: ABC (The Walt Disney Company), CBS (CBS Corporation), NBC (General Electric Company), CNN (Time Warner, Inc.), FOX (News Corporation), and MSNBC (General Electric Company & Microsoft Corporation). The results of the study are not especially shocking, but they are disturbing.

The Runaway Bride: In the summer of 2005, a Ge…

Google Voice

Apparently there was a day when we had to pay for stuff; we had to pay a lot for stuff. In the 1892 AT&T offered the first domestic long distance service; it cost $9 for a five minute call. In 1927 AT&T offered the first international call - from New York to London - at a cost of $75 for a 3 minute call. By 1987 (the year I was born) phone companies were offering long distance for about 25 cents per minute. Now, anyone born within in the last 15 years has absolutely no clue that free long distance calling hasn't existed forever. Anyone will cell phone service or VOIP service can make unlimited domestic calls for a low, fixed cost. Remember that $25 call from New York to London?. today it costs 2 cents using SkypeOut, and it's free if both parties are using Skype. Ten years ago my dad needed a voicemail box with a different number than our home number. Ameritech (now AT&T) charged a monthly rate of $10. Just the other day, I signed up for my own local voicemail box…

Fox Hunting

What happens when you take two of the most popular faces of Fox News and put them in the same room? All hell breaks loose! Here's the story... a young girl in Virginia was killed by a drunk driver; and rather than blaming the tragedy on alcoholism or irresponsibility, Bill O'Reily blames it on, get this, illegal immigration! Fortunately, Geraldo was in the studio to point out the ridiculousness of the argument. Then Bill O'Reily's head exploded. Lets take a look...

Corporate KGB

To those still in denial about the influence multinational corporations wield in the world today, look no further than what is happening right now at Wal-Mart. Inside the world's biggest corporation lies the Threat Research and Analysis Group, a secret intelligence agency which looks eerily similar to the disbanded Committee for State Security (KGB) in the former Soviet Union. Interestingly, the two men in charge of the group, Kenneth Senser and Joseph Lewis are both former FBI veterans. A former group employee, Bruce Gabbard, became the whistle blower in this scandal after Wal-Mart fired him and his supervisor for recording calls to and from a New York Times reporter. The Wall Street Journal first broke the story a few days ago with information provided by Gabbard.

CNBC Bureau Chief Jim Goldman boldly stated that "it could make the corporate espionage case that rocked Hewlett Packard last year look like childsplay." According to the Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart tapped p…

Peak Oil Update

If you ask a random sample of 100 people about peak oil, you will get 90 blank stares, 7 completely incorrect explanations, and about 3 people well educated on the topic. That's a shame.

Peak oil is important because many of the naysayers are finally admitting that we have a problem; unfortunately they aren't educating the public about it. Sure, everyone knows that prices are going up... we've had to pay an extra buck fifty at the pump for God's sake! That is peanuts compared to the real impacts peak oil will have on the world. Peak oil is a complex idea, but it goes something like this... as demand increases, the supply of oil on the market will increase to meet that demand (your standard supply/demand idea). Once half of all the oil has been extracted (this is the peak) the supply will start to decline. Not a problem if demand was falling too... but demand is surging and shows no sign of stopping.

Think of it another way. Lets say you discover gold in your backyard and…

Fattening Up

In January, McDonalds reported that same-store sales were up 4.9% (source). In February, McDonalds announced that its same-store sales had jumped an additional 5.7% (source)! And Chipotle Mexican Grill is growing so quickly that its profit more than doubled in a single quarter (source). What the heck is going on here?! Even as more evidence that fast-food is extremely bad for you comes out, Americans are consuming more and more of the stuff. Is America simple becoming fat? Is it true that we are the laziest people on earth? After I saw this picture today, I think the unfortunate answer is, yes.

Courtesy of the Associated Press.