Monday, February 28, 2005

Why Do Baby Boomers Beat on Our Generation?

     I'm not really going to examine why. Here's just another example of the insanity.

     In an article in the AJC today, polls suggest that 50% of workers are unhappy with their jobs. The most satisfied were those making over $50,000 (duh) and those aged 65 and older (duh - at 65, a large number of people who hated their jobs have retired. The ones who love them stick with it). The article quotes a woman who attributes a large part of the trend towards dissatisfaction to the fact that Baby Boomers are leaving these jobs and Gen X'ers are taking them. She says that "they will be increasingly replaced by younger workers, who tend to be as dissatisfied with their jobs, but have different attitudes and expectations about the role of work in their lives".

     This might be true. But the polls found that the biggest areas of discontent were related to company bonus plans, promotion policies, health and pension benefits, and pay. Well, is it a coincidence that the baby boomers have been eliminating and downsizing these programs for years? Hell, if I paid the same for health care that the boomers paid ($0 in my company) 10 years ago, I'd be a lot happier. My company still offers a pension, but I don't know a single one of my friends who can say the same. Why shouldn't we be dissatisfied? The boomers screw us so they can make more money with their stock options (and harm the long-term interests of companies) and then complain that we don't have the work ethic they did? We get dumped on by them and we take it, but when they ask and find out we're dissatisfied, it's our fault??

     This reminds me of 10 years ago when we were accused of having no loyalty to companies anymore because we job-hopped. Of course that had nothing to do with the fact that boomers were initiating massive layoffs and coined the word "downsizing" at that time.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Last Jew in Afghanistan?

What a weird story about The Last Jew in Afghanistan

Palestinian Politicians Pick Posts without Politics

     There was an interesting news story released today that the Palestinians chose a new cabinet for their government. Of the 24 new cabinet members, almost half have PhD's and a number have masters degrees. All of the people were chosen for their expertise in the fields in which they will advise. Few were politicians of any sort, and 17 were complete newcomers. The big news is that, "The method [of choosing the cabinet] stood in stark contrast to the formation of Cabinets in the Arafat era, when he would choose the ministers based on loyalty."
(See the AP article, identically reported on or if you don't want to be deluged with pop-ups,
     I want you to notice that this article is on both mainstream news sites. The quote above indicates very promising signs of progress in the Middle East. In fact, (and I'm no lover of things Arab, believe me!) this is significantly better than the way our current cabinet was composed. President Bush chose his cabinet almost solely based on loyalty and virtually not at all on subject matter expertise. Yes, most or all of his cabinet are well-educated, bright people. But is his Health & Human Services Secretary a doctor? Was his Education Secretary a teacher? Granted, his Attorney General is actually a lawyer, but it turns out that so was almost every other cabinet member. What they all have in common is long ties to President Bush and the inability to say "no". Where's Colin Powell? Where are the people who dared to have a differing position? What does it say about our president that the Palestinian cabinet is more advanced and independent than the American cabinet?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Too Much Tsunami a Bad Thing?

     The December 26 tsunami in the Indian Ocean was the deadliest disaster of its kind in recorded history, killing at least 228,000 people, as of today, and possible tens of thousands more. Although not the worst natural disaster of all time, (an earthquake in China in 1976 killed 242,000, the 1918 Influenza pandemic killed between 25 and 100 million. See the List of Natural Disasters), it was one of the worst in modern history and one of the first caught on video.
     My provocative question of the day: is the tsunami overhyped? We give a lot of money to charity, although not exactly close to 10% of our income (we give, but we don't tithe). We didn't give any money towards the tsunami disaster because we wanted to focus our giving on our normal charitable priorities.
     It turns out that even during times of great need, like the tsunami tragedy or September 11, people don't increase their overall giving, they divert it away from the everyday needs. Organizations like the Red Cross and United Way suffer, not to mention the thousands of needy people who rely on emergency care. Because of this, I greatly admire President Bush's move to include January's donactions to tsunami relief in 2004's deduction. I feel this move will cause people not to subtract what they give to tsunami relief from what they will overall give in 2005.
     Still, for months, all I've been hearing on TV and the radion is tsunami this and tsunami that. I can't help feeling this is all a little hypocritical. After this is all said and done, we'll still have a quarter of a million people dead and a bunch of Americans will be patting themselves on the back for being so generous. Meanwhile, in their own backyards, millions of the unwashed sit ignored and unhelped.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Reset of the Abortion Debate

     At the risk of sounding hackneyed, I'd like to revisit the abortion debate. Off the bat, let me tell you, I'm a staunch supporter of abortion rights. That's correct - I didn't say "Pro-Choice".
     Here's what I feel is the largest barrier to having an honest dialogue regarding abortion. Supporters of Roe v. Wade call it a battle over a woman's right to make choices over her body. Opponents call it a fight over the right of a fetus to live. While I strongly disagree that a fetus (or embryo) is alive, these "Pro-Lifers" are the only ones engaging in honest language. Everybody agrees that women should be allowed to make choices about their own bodies (except for certain right-wing nuts who like their women barefoot and pregnant). The real question is: Are embryos and fetuses alive? Are embryos and fetuses human?
     I'm not here to make the argument right now. But it seems like the only way to come to terms with the controversy is to get people talking in the same language. It would allow abortion rights advocates to clearly define their reasoning, and it would stop abortion foes from hiding behind religious rhetoric and start engaging in real discussion.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Automotive Geriatric

     This is a touchy subject. In some places (like South Florida, where I grew up), this is more controversial than abortion, social security, or even hanging chads. Old people driving. Here in Atlanta, this is a total non-issue. Although considering the horrible state of traffic, you would think politicians would be thinking of ways to get more drivers off the roads.
     Dave's blog touched on old people a couple of weeks ago, but a study from the University of Utah, an article in the Washington Post, and a brief analysis by Slate (scroll to Feb 3) made some interesting points. Basically, they found that drivers aged 18 to 25 drive as badly as a 70-year old when talking on a cell phone. That's a pretty bad indictment of using cellphones while driving, and studies like this are causing various local and state governments to ban cellphone use while driving. Slate's point was that if driving like a 70-year old is bad enough to enact a law banning it, why are we allowing 70-year olds to drive??
     You can muddle the issue all you want by ignoring the realities on the ground and saying that older people need the freedom of a car too, that especially in cities that don't have the mass transit capabilities of say New York, the only way to get around is by car. That's hardly a compelling argument - a 15 year old might say the same thing, as would his or her parents who have to shlep the kid around. Poor people who can't afford cars have a better argument. In fact, if driving is such a necessity that it's more important than having safe roads, maybe we should be distributing cars to the people who need them the most. Does anyone really argue the right of a serial drunk driver to retain his license? Even alcoholics need to get to work and the grocery store, not to mention the liquor store.
     At the very least, require annual eye tests and reflex testing to seniors. As amusing as they are, I'm tired of hearing stories of elderly confused drivers tearing through sidewalk markets.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

     I love Splenda. Last year, when I lost 40 pounds, Splenda rescued me with sugary-tasting goodies and kept me on track. I still use it - it is by far the tastiest zero-calorie sweetener on the market. I put Splenda in my tea, I eat it with sweet potatoes and cinnamon, and it's in a lot of the lo-cal groceries I buy now.
     Now Coke is coming out with a new Diet Coke with Splenda. The article in the AJC goes on to say how Lyle & Tate, the sole manufacturer of sucralose (the primary ingredient in Splenda) can't keep up with demand and is building a new plant in Singapore and expanding their current plant in Alabama. I'm really excited about this development, but....
     I can't help waiting for the other show to drop. If it comes out 20 years from now that sucralose causes cancer or scurvy or mutations or *something*, I'm screwed. I mean, the stuff's only existed for 14 years, and has only been in the U.S. for 6. Who knows what the long-term effects are? The implications are almost enough to make me start exercising again and switch back to sugar. Naahhh.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Saving the Social Security Surplus

     How's that for alliteration?
     A lot has been made on both sides of the fence that the "Social Security surplus" is a myth. They have a point - the SS trust fund had been raided by the Treasury department to help fund the government. Anyone ever wonder just how we can operate the government on a deficit year after year after year? Despite the fact that and Delta Airlines both seem to do it, the US of A borrows money. Two of the scariest places we borrow money from are foreign governments and from, you guessed it, Social Security. It's fairly obvious why it's scary to borrow from foreign governments. All of a sudden, they have power over us. We can have all the B2 bombers, all the "nukular" warheads in the world, but if they decide to stop supporting our debt, we may as well be owing Vinny from down the block the money, and we're about to lose our kneecaps.
     That's another issue, although it's related to why borrowing from SS is so scary. See, it's fine and dandy to be flip about the rape of SS and say that the trust fund is a myth and write off the money paid into it so far. Let's call it even and start over! Here's the problem. According to the Social Security Administration (which has a nice red & blue FAQ written by the partisans in the White House), we contributed a net $137.8 billion to the "mythical trust fund" last year. In the worst case scenario, the Treasury borrows all of it. If we fast forward to 2018 when revenue equals disbursement, or even look at next year if we "reform" the system, we need to come up with $137.8 billion extra for the government to run!
     It's absolutely true that if we continue on our current course, we're in for a world of budgetary hurt as the government struggles to pay back the fund's money. But there's not a single thing we can do to SS to fix that now. Even if we cancel the program today, where's that $137.8 billion going to come from tomorrow? Ouch. What's the solution to this? It all comes back to fiscal responsibility: Cut spending or raise taxes (or some combination of the two). Based on recent history, it doesn't look like the Republican congress is willing to do either.
     Which brings us back to the trust fund. It's not mythical. It's real. It is a real obligation the US Treasury has to us, the working public. If we decide to give the government a break and call off the debt owed to SS ($1.5 trillion and growing), good for us. But don't believe the shell game that says that reforming SS will fix any budgetary problem. We're in way too far over our heads for that.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Why I don't like the Iraq War

As seen on Ben's blog Hey Ben - you owe me - I'm linking to you:
If you only follow the mainstream media, you may not have realized that there were free and democratic elections in Iraq this weekend for the first time in 5000 years of recorded history. While I feel this is not just a good thing, but an absolutely fantastic event of immense historical significance, much of the left in our country is less than enthused. Some of them are even contemplating the possibility that at some point in the future they may have to admit that Bush was right and they were wrong. Personally I find the resistance to admitting any sort of success in Iraq to be very much in conflict with the supposed "ideals" of the left wing. The Democrats have, supposedly, stood for freedom and democracy for 200 years, but in this case they are solidly in favor of supporting the reactionary Islamic fanatics instead of the everyday workingman who wants peace so that they can raise a family and make a few bucks.

The uninformed drivel continues from there. You can read it for yourself if you really want. Here's my response:
     Don't get me wrong - I hate Bush, but nothing I'm going to write here has anything to do with that.
     First, that was an uncalled for and unfair bash on media, suggesting that the mainstream media hasn't covered the elections - that is front page news, even on the "liberal bastions" of the New York Times and the Washington Post. Unless by "mainstream media" you meant your blog, where this is the first mention of the Iraqi elections you've made.
     When people say the war was about oil, they don't mean it was about making gasoline cheap for the masses, they mean it was about a) securing a guaranteed supply for the US and b) making large profits for the oil company. I'm not saying that was our motive, just clarifying what the phrase means.
     I'm against this Iraq war. Not that I have any love for Saddam. I actually think it's about time someone invaded and brought democracy. However, the white house's hypocrisy about this is alarming to say the least and leaves open the notion that they have ulterior motives. Here's what's scary: They said it was about WMD at first. When it turned out there were no WMD, they changed their reason. It's not that humanitarian causes are a bad reason, but a) if Republicans are so humanitarian, why didn't they support Bosnia? Why didn't we save Rwanda? Why didn't we send troops to Ethiopia? It makes for a hollow argument. b) what's the *real* reason? Was it incompetence (they really invaded because of WMD and then later lied to save embarrassment)? Was it really humanitarian (unlikely - see a; they only used the WMD story to gain support in congress)? Or was it something else entirely? I guess if you trust Bush you don't care what the real reason is. He's lied so many times to the American public (although not under oath about blowjobs, so everything's OK!) that I don't trust him or the administration. I will not agree with this war until I feel confident I know *why* we really went in the first place.
Let me also say that now that we're there and we've fucked up the place, we'd better fix it. I am an under no illusions that our lives and livelihood don't depend on a peaceful middle-east. I just wish we'd never gone in the first place.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Circumcision by Mouth

     Gross. On today, there was an article about 3 New York babies that got herpes from their Mohel when he used his mouth to suck the resulting blood from their penises. Apparently, according to cnn and WebMD this is a recognized but rare practice among Orthodox Jews, although not religiously mandated. How positively nasty would it be to watch some man put his mouth on your infant son's penis? Can you say, "Michael Jackson"?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Why Should We Care if we Torture Some Terrorists?

... And other questions from Abu Ghraib (or as Bill Maher called it, "Abu Grab-Ass").

     Why should we care if American soldiers are torturing Iraqi prisoners in Iraq? They're just a bunch of terrorists anyway, right? They do worse to us - heck I hear there's video on the internet of some of them chopping off an American's head! It's not like we're killing them. If the life of your mother or daughter depended on the information that terrorist had, would you want to torture them? All the Arabs are mad at America anyway. You just hate America and try to drag us down to their level!

     Any of this sound familiar? Twisted logic mixed in with lies, misdirection, and innuendo. It's hard to know where to begin to defend the Truth against the right-wing lie machine, and that's exactly how they like it. Here are some facts:
  • Not all prisoners in Iraq are terrorists. In fact, most are imprisoned for mundane acts, like shoplifting or fighting. Sure, you'll have a few car thieves and some muggers. Mixed in is a sprinkling of terrorists. When Lynndie England was photographed with naked prisoners in a pile, she wasn't punishing hardened terrorists, she was abusing petty thieves.
  • As you may have guessed, these pickpocketers aren't chopping hostages' heads. In fact, lets say we caught al-Zarqawi. Do you think he'd be in the Abu Ghraib general population getting goosed by an army reservist?
  • OK - it's true. We're not killing the prisoners. You got me there.
  • If my mother were immediate danger and the prisoner had knowledge that could save her, I would condone most or all forms of interrogation. This is known as a "ticking bomb" and forceful interrogations are using in these situations in the civilized world, just quietly. There was no "ticking bomb" at Abu Ghraib. There is no "ticking bomb" in Guantanamo Bay. While a terrorist act against Americans could happen at any given time, that is not an excuse to wholesale torture every person with a beard or a turban on earth. The key word is "If". Not "Always". And remember that the tortuous interrogation would have a specific purpose. It would not be done "because they deserve it", but because we needed a piece of information that would save lives. Would, not could.
  • All Arabs are not mad at America. Many are. Since Abu Ghraib, many more are. This statement is even at odds with the President, who like to tell us that the insurgency is caused by a small minority that the rest of the country is scared of. Every time we break trust with the silent majority, we embolden the violent minority and further endanger ourselves. Terrorists are able to kill Americans in Iraq and disappear into the shadows because the populace is too scared to speak up. Can you imagine how bad it would be if they were actively rooting against us? This argument is only seriously used by those who call the war on terror a war on Islam. They want to kill all Muslims anyway, who cares if we piss them off.
  • "You hate America" This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Radio talk show hosts and now ignoramus dittoheads telling people they hate America. Do they honestly thing 50% of Americans hate America??? I'm actually so baffled by this statement, I hope someone can expound upon this and tell me exactly what it means for an American to "hate America" and what motivation that person would have. Personally, I love America. I thank God every day that I live here and I make it a personal goal to improve it here. I hate liers and hatemongers. But I don't believe they represent America.

     Let's try to retain at least some of America's ideals in this war. Let's treat people humanely and if we're serious about bringing democracy to the people of Iraq, let's treat them like they deserve democracy, not like they deserve to be in a naked pyramid.