Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category


Saturday, March 21st, 2009

These animated diagrams are great to visually show how economics works. He should switch to Flash, so the images are clearer, and larger, without the download time. And a professional voice-over would be good. But this is by far the clearest way to explain economics.

And people need to understand economics, badly.

This is Information Architecture approaching it’s highest potential.

Memetic Heretic

Friday, November 10th, 2006

I just had the pleasure of talking with a grad student from University of Toronto. She included me in a survey of “meme makers” regarding media, society and the Internet in a “post 911 world”.

My li’l meme is the “worst president ever” logo.

It’s a little disturbing talking about memes, mainly because the meme-master of the universe has been Karl Rove for the last few years. The key to a meme is to get it repeated so many times people accept it as a defining “wrapper” around whatever cultural, political or business dogma is floating down the river of collective consciousness. The Repugnicans had one for every occasion from “it’s too complicated” which they all repeated to kill the Clinton Health Care plan, to the “FlipFlop” meme for Al Gore or the Swift Boating of John Kerry.

Memes run like wildfire through the conservative community… they dribble through the liberal/progressive community. Free thinkers don’t trend well. Go figure.

For awhile, it seemed the biggest meme about Democrats among Democrats was that they were too disorganized — not “unified” enough to defeat the Repugnicans. That, in fact, is the one thing I like most about Dems. They are free thinking, non-unified debaters. That, ladies and gents, is what democracy is SUPPOSED to be. If everyone just dittos the leadership, that is NOT democracy. Get that meme through your head: unified is NOT democratic.

So some of us decided to take certain weak memes floating out there and amplify them. Not cynically, mind you. I do think history will reflect on the Bush administration as among the worst in history. So, I made a design supporting that, and tweaking the noses of those pickup-driving dudes with the oval “W04” stickers.

To me, the last 10 years should be known as “the great American stupid” (this won’t catch, people won’t admit to stupidity – especially semi-smart people who were caught up in the big stupid). We threw out everything that was creating progress and flushed it, became addicted to fear, and lost our claim to being the greatest nation. Economically, socially, environmentally, we’ve declined. At least a dozen other nations have better economies, better health care, better education, better salaries, better vacations, fewer people in jail, and more respect in the world than the USofA, and that’s just a fact. No matter how often the liars try to create the meme “greatest nation in the world” we just aren’t any more.

Don’t get me wrong, I think we can come back. But to get there, we have to watch, and learn, and experiment, and yes, spend tax dollars on people, before weapons systems. Let’s start with clean energy/energy independence, and diplomacy. Let’s move on to create universal healthcare. Let’s create open and free curriculum for every subject and every grade, and improve teacher training – it’s for our common good, lets put it in the creative commons. Let’s treat drug addiction as a health care problem, rather than an excuse to lock people away forever. Let’s realize these people are self-medicating. If they didn’t have problems to start with, the drug problem would never have gotten a foothold in their miserable lives. Mental health care has a long way to go, but rapid progress is being made.

Let’s divert the military space budget to peaceful ocean studies. That’s where we can get all the water and power we need, without environmentally disastrous damming and burning and nuking. Let’s disassemble the nuclear bombs and the nuclear power plants and stop manufacturing by the ton the most toxic substance known to man, so we don’t have to find a place to store any more than we already have. Think how long 10,000 years is, folks. That’s a long time to store anything, much less something as lethal as nuclear waste.

Conservatives have labeled environmentalists as crazy, extreme, anti-business. Crush that meme. We all eat: we need healthy food; we all drink: we need clean water; we all breathe: we need clean air. It’s that simple. Companies can make as much money serving these purposes as they do spewing waste — probably more. What’s more, workers won’t be staying home on “spare the air” days taking care of their wheezing kids (10% of children in most cities in America have asthma, and emergency room visits radically increase on bad days). Allergies and asthma are skyrocketing: partly because of our diets, partly because of the amount of toxic materials in our lives, partly because of antibiotic abuse, and partly for reasons no one knows yet. I’ve lost 3 out of the last 5 years of my life to this. If my house hadn’t doubled in value, I’d be bankrupt because of this. Pollution costs us real money, people.

Progress is starting again… I’m hopeful.

Logical Fallacies (useful when watching cable news networks)

Saturday, September 9th, 2006

This is a great list of logical fallacies, many of which you see every day. I was thinking you could make a drinking game out of this by watching cable news, and naming the logical fallacy, by name, when you see it. I suspect you could get drunk, pretty fast playing this game.

Further proof conservative economics only work for the rich

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Statistics from the census bureau:

– In 2005, 46.6 million people were without health insurance coverage, up from 45.3 million people in 2004.

– The percentage of people without health insurance coverage increased from 15.6 percent in 2004 to 15.9 percent in 2005.

– The median earnings of men declined 1.8 percent to $41,386. The median earnings of women declined 1.3 percent to $31,858.

– In 2005, 37.0 million people were in poverty, not statistically different from 2004.

From another source:
The heads of America’s 500 biggest companies received an aggregate 54% pay raise last year. As a group, their total compensation amounted to $5.1 billion, versus $3.3 billion in fiscal 2003.

If you take this, combine it with the price of a home, and the price of gas, and the staggering healthcare inflation, and the average working citizen is clearly screwed by “trickle down economics.” This should suprise no one.

I really don’t have a problem with successful CEO’s getting paid well, I don’t even have a real problem with in increasing gap between the earnings of the rich vs. the poor… UNLESS, the poor and middle class net earnings decline. During the Clinton years, the gap increased but EVERY income category did substantially better than historical norms. This was progress.

It was so much progress during the ’90s, in fact, that even today we are better off than 20 years ago. However, the trends reversed over the last 10 years, and those trends are accelerating. So all the gains will be gone shortly. What’s changed? Republicans are in charge. That’s all it takes.

Combine this with morale and execution problems throughout government bureaucracies, lack of oversight and enforcement of consumer and worker issues, massive corporate acquisition of votes, the widespread closure of small, independent commercial enterprises in cities (replaced by huge chains) and we have serious social problems in our immediate future.

I like business. I like enterprise unencumbered by red tape. I like low taxes. But we’ve turned a corner here towards banana republic corruption and the end of government of, by and for the people. Clearly, regulation and enforcement should be optimized, not minimized. Clearly government should be responsive to business, but not at the cost of the lives and health of customers and employees. Clearly taxes should be kept at a minimum: The minimum necessary to pay the bills keep the government running. Not the minimum that runs up debt and cripples the government’s ability to execute (a la FEMA).

Republicans live in a fantasy world and they can’t be trusted with our government. So, I made a bumper sticker/mug/t-shirt design, available via CafePress:

Requisite Entry on Katrina

Saturday, November 26th, 2005

I really don’t feel much like writing today, but I’m watching c-span, news reports, etc. and feel like I have to mark my thoughts.

All energy, after an event like this, should go to saving lives and finding solutions.

But It is obvious that there was warning both of the geographic problems of New Orleans, and of the severity of the storm.

It is obvious that the response mechanism waited for the aftermath to begin, rather than being anticipated from the point the storm was identified as both large, and headed for the LA coast. That was a terrible mistake. We had enough warning to have water, food, and rescue vehicles at ready. We had enough time to have law enforcement ready. This is a clear case of mismanagement.

But now, give blood, give money. Give it to the Red Cross. They know what to do, how to do it, and they do it all the time. Thank you, people of the Red Cross.

70% of the citizens of New Orleans and the surrounding area are black. The people who stayed behind were disproportionately black. Don’t draw conclusions about the problems of the looting, shooting, rape — or for that matter, the slow response — being race-related. If there is a problem, it is more the long-term problem of poor states getting poor service from a political system that is of, by, and for the wealthy.

I believe the best efforts are now being directed to the area, and the private sector will make up for the weak Federal and State response going forward. It’s a big mess, and people have just started to suffer from it. It will cause economic and social ripples for a decade.

The weak response is based on several things: the lack of fact-based decision-making that is the hallmark of Republican leadership, the simple cost-benefit problems of raising a city above sea level, the nature of poor people under extreme pressure, the obsession with “homeland security” at the cost of actual homeland security, the informational isolation of the Bushies, the primary interest of the Feds of being on camera, looking “in-charge” vs. their willingness to actually do the work of being in charge.

Don’t take my word for it, here are the details. Quick quote from the end of the article: “But with the change of administration in 2001, many of Witt’s prevention programs were reduced or cut entirely. After Sept. 11, former FEMA officials and outside authorities said, Washington’s attention turned to terrorism to the exclusion of almost anything else.”

On another note, in my area of Northern California, regular flooding of the valley towns of Marysville, Yuba City, and Sacramento led to these towns being periodically buried in mud. This led to the end of Hydraulic Mining, but regardless of the debris from Hydraulic Mining, this problem would have occurred anyway. The Sacramento Valley floor with its rich soil for farming formed this way, before we were here to see it.

To resolve the annual destruction the flooding brought, the cities were raised. It was done with true horsepower and people power.

Retaining walls were built in front of the buildings with walkways remaining on then-ground-floor levels, and dirt was brought in and dumped between the retaining walls, raising the level of the streets.

Once this was completed, the downstairs merchants moved upstairs and new entryways were completed. The downstairs became basements. Walkways at street (second floor) levels were built that became roofs over the old walkways. Glass bricks were embedded in the new sidewalks to light the still-used passageways beneath.

And levees were built. They’re in rough shape now, and have failed a number of times, creating problems in small towns.

But Sacramento so far has been spared.

Our good congressmen (recently deceased) Bob Matsui fought for improved levees for years. Our bad congressman John Doolittle fought against them… preferring instead the Auburn Dam. I won’t go into the foolishness of THAT. Finally, an agreement was reached, and levees will be improved. Planning ahead is a good thing. Of course, we were lucky. The perfect storm hasn’t hit.

Will they be improved on time, and will the improvements be adequate, when the perfect storm finally does hit? Can we use the old adage “Time will tell” or should we jump to it?

On thing we can do is kick Doolittle out on his ass… And put in someone with some foresight. Matsui was an awesome Senator… hard to find any way to criticize him (imagine that!). His wife, Doris Matsui has taken his position. Let’s hope she’s as effective.

I bet the people stranded on the Gulf Coast didn’t think politics effected them personally. Now, I hope they know better. Now, maybe we all know better, and won’t trust Republicans with our lives, any more. I can wish, can’t I?