Article 43


Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Eisenhower’s Other Warning

President Dwight Eisenhower: Farewell to the Nation
January 17, 1961

We now stand 10 years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts, America is today the strongest, the most influential, and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this preeminence, we yet realize that America’s leadership and prestige depend not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches, and military strength but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment. . . .

A vital element in keeping the peace is our Military Establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, 3 million men and women are directly engaged in the Defense Establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense Military Establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual - is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the Federal Government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to cornprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved; so is the very Structure of our society.

In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alertand knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture has been the technological revolution during recent decades. In this revolution research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of the Federal Government.

Today the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research.

Partly because of the huge costs involved, a Government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the Nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alertto the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

It is the task of statemanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.




Posted by Elvis on 02/28/06 •
Section Revelations
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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Democracy Hollowed Out Part 7

The best thing for free speech - the internet - may be on a path to squelch that openness.


Be Afraid: Congress Takes Up Net Neutrality
By Pedro Pereira
The Channel Insider
February 22, 2006

U.S. Congress involvement in anything these days should give everyone at least a slight tremor. “Unintended” consequences seem to have a way of rearing their ugly heads in the aftermath of congressional action.

Remember campaign finance reform and how well that worked? What about the TELECOMMUNIXCATIONS ACT OF 1996? Instead of the competition that was supposed to benefit the consumer, we have seen industry consolidation and higher rates.

So forgive my skepticism regarding potential congressional action on what has come to be known as “net neutrality.”

The Senate held hearings this month on whether to allow telecommunications giants BellSouth, SBC Communications (which includes AT&T) and Verizon Communications the ability to give Internet content providers preferential treatment for paying “higher rent” for the use of their network pipes.

Pages would load faster and overall performance would be better on the sites of the telcos themselves and the high-rent payers.

These telcos own the networks, and they are green with envy of the success of such content providers as Amazon, eBay and Googleparticularly the latter, whose stock price is trading at close to $370 per share.

After all, the phone giants reason, they are the ones that made the investment to create the networks we all use to access the Web.

Content providers, they argue, essentially are getting a free ride.

On the surface, their position is not unreasonableחthat is, until you remember that they already charge for the use of those pipes.

The telcos have raised the hackles of the content providers and an amalgamation of other business interests, including Microsoft, who are pushing for net neutrality, a principle that favors openness and equal access to content.

Civil rights advocates, not surprisingly, have jumped into the fray on the side of the content providers, even though the issue primarily involves competing business interests and who gets to pay for what.

Curiously, channel companies haven’t taken a position on this. While asking around over the past week, I found that few of my channel contacts have thought about it, and some are only dimly aware of the issue.

At this point, the potential effect of granting the telcos’ wish still seems too far removed from channel interests. Even if the big telcos have their way, it isn’t entirely clear how much of an effect, if any, this would have on the channel.

But the potential exists. Just follow the thread. Let’s say Congress allows the network owners to give preferential treatment to their own content and that of providers from which they extract higher fees. The inevitable outcome is increased costs.

If the telcos start charging content providers such as Google and eBay for the use of the pipes, what’s to stop them from also charging premiums for voice over IP and other Web-based services in which channel companies play a critical role?

Increased costs would get passed down from the content originators to those servicing the content, and ultimately, the end users.

So that IP-based telephony solution your customer was considering would become less affordable. And the same goes for Web conferencing solutions and remote network management services.

Innovation also would take a hit. If preferential treatment is given to large content providers because they can pay premiums, what happens to small, intrepid companies with a great product but few resources? Obscurity.

Judging from some lawmakers’ remarks during the hearings, the telcos face an uphill battle. But as often happens with competing interests pushing Congress for action, the result will likely be a compromise.

I shudder to think what that compromise would be. It would likely have loopholes big enough to allow plenty of “unintended” consequences, not least of which would be higher costs.

Pedro Pereira is a contributing editor for The Channel Insider. He covered the channel from 1996 to 2001, took a break, and now he’s back. He can be reached at ppereira at


Democracy Hollowed Out
PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5
PART 6 - PART 7 - PART 8 - PART 9 - PART 10
PART 11 - PART 12 - PART 13 - PART 14 - PART 15
PART 16 - PART 17 - PART 18

Posted by Elvis on 02/26/06 •
Section Dying America
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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Creating Wealth for the Poor

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Washington Post
February 21, 2006

Ron Sims, the county executive in Washington state’s King County, believes government’s job is “to help create wealth more efficiently.” That view comes naturally to a leader of the entrepreneurial Seattle region, which has improved the nation’s experience of everything from technology to coffee.

The late Paul Offner was animated in the final years of his life by a moral passion over the failure to address the deep problems of our nation’s poorest young men, particularly African Americans. He left behind a manuscript, published last month by the Urban Institute, in which he and two colleagues issued an urgent plea for public action on behalf of our most disadvantaged fellow citizens.

Oh, and just as a reminder of how misleading stereotypes can be: Sims is African American while Offner, who died in 2004, was white.

Meeting Sims and reading the Urban Institute manuscriptprovided a bracing reminder that there is an authentic search going on outside of conventional politics for the new ideas to animate a new political era—precisely what Democrats are supposed to be seeking.

Sims is a bluff, warm man who gets excited about problem-solving. A Democrat, he will talk your ear off about the King County government’s effort to work with local employers in creating a new heath care delivery system. The idea is that government can be a catalyst for negotiation, research and reform and save both public and private employers money while producing better health outcomes for consumers.

It fits with Sims’s larger idea that government, far from being a drain on the nation’s wealth, ought to “provide the social infrastructure and the physical infrastructure to help wealth be created.” He said during lunch here the other day that Democrats should run under the slogan: “Rebuild America.”

Sims notes that after World War II, the federal government helped unleash an era of exceptional growth through investments in schools, interstate highways and higher education. Both India and China are “making intelligent moves for economic growth” and the United States cannot stand by and watch. “You need people and brains to create an economy,” he says. “You need transportation to move an economy. And you need an environmental policy to create clean air and clean water.”

Sims’s idea reminds Democrats that a commitment to active government is not simply about redistributing wealth. It is also rooted in the historically sound insight that effective government has always been essential to robust economic growth. Government, in the Sims formulation, should be a dynamic player in our nation’s economic life.

Yet Democrats face a paradoxical problem: They find themselves attacked for being too concerned about redistributing money, yet they are far too timid in committing themselves to lifting up the very poorest Americans.

That’s where the Urban Institute study, “Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men,” co-authored by Offner with my Georgetown University colleagues Peter Edelman and Harry J. Holzer, comes in. They write: “Nearly 3 million less-educated young people between the ages of 16 and 24—about half of whom are young men—are disconnected from education and employment in the United States.” This disconnected cohort includes significant numbers of Hispanics and whites, but AFRICAN AMERICANS are disproportionately represented in their ranks. While policymakers have spent much energy on the problems facing single mothers, they have done little about the disadvantages facing young men.

The decline of manufacturing employment means the economy is producing fewer well-paying jobs for the less-skilled. These disconnected young men tend to go to the poorest schools, grow up amid concentrated poverty and in families that often lack fathers, and face persistent employment discrimination. Face it: The one expensive social program we have for this group is incarceration. Can’t we do better?

The authors of the report offer resolutely hardheaded solutions. They would reform education and training programs and work with employers and other intermediaries to connect these young men to the labor market. They would expand programs such as the Job Corps that have “proven track records,” and have us do far more to integrate ex-offenders into the world of work. They would create much stronger work incentives through income supplements, higher minimum wages and changes in the child support system.

The Urban Institute authors can be read as bringing Sims’s practical focus on government’s role in wealth creation to the task of expanding opportunities for the least fortunate among the young. This is good public policy. My hunch is that it could also be good politics.


Posted by Elvis on 02/25/06 •
Section General Reading
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Declining Private Retirement Accounts

The newest FEDERAL RESERVE REPORT on changes in family finances - looking at changes from 2001 to 2004 - highlight the decline in families with private retirement accounts for individuals. 

While the news is dominated by employers eliminating defined benefit pensions, the fraction of families with individual retirement accounts also fell 2.5 percentage points in those years.

In fact, less than 50% of families have any kind of retirement account.

The hard reality is that the decline in employer pension funds are mostly being replaced by....nothing.



Posted by Elvis on 02/25/06 •
Section General Reading
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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Carl Sagan’s Warnings

The Reptile Within Us

By Horst Sommer and The Planetary Society
Opinion piece by Michael Paine. 
This does not represent the views of any organisation.
September 21, 2001

The attempt by the US media to make news rather than report it is my greatest concern.

In the book and TV series COSMOS, CARL SAGAN warns against politicians appealing to the “reptilian” portions of our brain and inciting aggression, territoriality and fear of strangers. His concern at the time was the nuclear arms race but the same concerns apply now, at a time when the USA is contemplating a response to the dreadful events in New York and Washington.

The US media have not helped the situation with a constant demand for retaliation that is pushing the nation’s leaders into making hasty decisions. There is a grave danger that an indiscriminate, aggressive response will destablize some of the many friendly Arab nations and plunge them into fundamentalist oppression.

At times like this it is not easy to question the actions of leaders. Those who do are labelled unpatriotic or traitors. But the reality is that the USA is not under any immediate threat, other than an economic slump of its own making. The US economy is highly dependent on consumer spending. The first thing that consumers did when their President said “Prepare for War” was to stop spending. The economic consequences of the terrorists attacks are becoming far more severe than they ever needed to be.

Here are some quotes from the book Cosmos:

· [Description of the human brain] Capping the brain stem is the R-Complex, the seat of aggression, ritual, territoriality and social heirarchy, which evolved hundreds of millions of years ago in our reptilian ancestors...on the outside, living in uneasy truce with the more primitive brains beneath, is the cerebal cortex...Civilisation is a product of the cerebal cortex.

· [War] When our well-being is threatened, when our illusions about ourselves are challenged, we tend - some of us at least - to fly into murderous rages. And when the same provocations are applied to nation states, they, too, sometimes fly into murderous rages, egged on often enough by those seeking personal power or profit. But as technology of murder improves and the penalties of war increase, a great many people must be made to fly into murderous rages simultaneously for a major war to be mustered. Because the organs of mass communciation are often in the hands of the state [or a privileged few] this can commonly be arranged.

· The global balance of terror is a very delicate balance. It depends on things not going wrong, on mistakes not being made, on the reptilian passions not being seriously aroused.

From the perspective of someone outside the USA, I have to say that President Bush sounds more like the coach of a high school sports team than a statesman. There is a need for Americans to call “time-out” and to scrutinise the strategy that has been cobbled together by the nation’s leaders under the untenable glare of the media. Don’t rush into actions that may have grave, far-reaching consequences.

The terrorists can be brought to justice by less reptilian means. We have to remember the traits that make us “civilised”.

From ’PALE BLUE DOT‘ also by Carl Sagan.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors, so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.



Posted by Elvis on 02/23/06 •
Section Revelations
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