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Neil Postman Goodness

Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death is probably one of the five most insightful books I’ve ever read.  It looks at the decline of public discourse in America [the Lincoln-Douglas debates were seven hours apiece and the crowds stayed for the whole thing; the responses in the primary debates in 2007 were a few minutes at the most] and links it to the changing mechanisms through which information is distributed [from text to image-based discourse].  Postman wrote the book in 1985, so obviously its about T.V. and not the Internet, so I was delighted to stumble upon this treatment of his ideas from the perspective of the Internet age: http://artofmanliness.com/2009/12/01/amusing-ourselves-out-of-our-manhood/

Also, for a treatment of the implications of Postman’s work in terms of the 2007 Presidential primaries, check out this post from my old blog…

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Bogus “Stimulus” Jobs

A fun, interactive map laying out bogus Stimulus-related job creation claims.  There aren’t any listed for Vermont (yet). . . we need to get on that :).   My favorite:

North Chicago, IL

The city claimed to have saved the jobs of 473 teachers with its $4.7 million education stimulus grant. The district employs only 290 teachers

I take it none of them are math teachers…

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Second Thoughts About the Bailouts

FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair: “In retrospect, I think it was not a good idea.”  To bad that message was dismissed by those in power while we were being robbed blind; a year down the road, it’s “history”, and nobody’s going to be held to account.  See the full interview here.

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Socialism for Rich Homebuilders

In one of the newer bills to ooze out of the halls of Congress, a change in tax law amounts to providing bailouts to the large developers who fed the housing boom to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, when many of them are still in sound financial positions with plenty of cash on hand.  It’s truly amazing how brazen the thieves have become; then again, it’s not like we can do anything to stop them… For a full analysis of the bill, check out this article from the NY Times.

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ASR Recognition, and an exchange with the VT ACLU!

At the Vermont Community Access Media producers dinner on Friday night, American Socialism for the Rich was honored with the VCAM’s 2009 Staff Award for “Fearlessly Embracing Both the Spirit and Technology of Community Access Digital Video Production”!  The dinner was quite the production, with clips played from all of the shows currently in production, ranging from a wrasslin’ fan hour to fairly high production value stuff.  Additionally, long-time producer of the “Songwriter’s Notebook” Rik Paliari talked about the experience of having his show archived at the Library of Congress, and the Director of the Vermont ACLU gave the keynote address.

When it came time to ask questions of the speaker, I asked about the ACLU’s position on the utility of the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution as a tool for preserving liberty.  As soon as the words “Tenth Amendment” came out of my mouth, his body language became dismissive/exasperated, and his answer was that, essentially, there are parts of the Constitution that are anachronisms, and the tenth, as well as the ninth and third, fall into that category.  I strongly disagree with that analysis, as I ascribe to the position, a la David Deudney, that the checks and balances (or “negarchy”) created by the Constitution are vertical [Federal-State-People] as well as horizontal [Executive-Legislative-Judicial].  As the exchange occurred at a dinner, I didn’t press the issue; however, I think this line of thought deserves bearing out, so ASR will be extending an invitation to the ACLU in the near future…

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An interesting take on the unemployment situation…

Contrary to the predictions of the sanguine experts, last week the official unemployment rate broke into the double digits (while Shadow Government Statistics‘ alternative measures are showing a rate above 20%, e.g. near Great Depression levels).  With that in mind, I was really impressed with this article from the Las Vegas Sun about how, in Las Vegas, the situation is getting so desperate that citizens are joining illegal migrant workers in trying to find casual day labor.  The article is very well written, and incisively points to the narrowing of the gap between third world workers and the “labor aristocracy” (to quote Hobsbawm) of the first world.  As Las Vegas is at the epicenter of the housing bust, I wouldn’t be suprised if the appearance of this phenomenon there is but the leading edge of a larger trend that will begin making itself known across the country.  As the fiscal crises of the States deepen and the “stimulus” crack wears off, Home Depot parking lots might start getting a lot more crowded…

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Epic Awesomeness!

These guys are my new heroes; it takes real moxie to not get flustered while managing a counter-spectacle like this:

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A shot of happy for Ender’s Game fans out there…

XKCD . . . It has always amazed me how Orson Scott Card called blogging 20 years before the form came into being…

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Vermont Reaps a Benefit by Sowing Denial

By Shawn McCullough

When is it acceptable to deny the reality of one’s own historical roots? Apparently, the State of Vermont has the answer: when a benefit can be realized at the expense of its indigenous citizens. In 2006, the Vermont legislature passed Act 125 (S.117); An Act Relating to State Recognition of the Abenaki People. Ostensibly, said Act imbued the Abenaki with official, State of Vermont, indigenous recognition.

Why is recognition important? First, it acknowledges the historical fact of an extant indigenous community of people, who have maintained a viable existence in Vermont since time immemorial. Second, it allows the Abenaki to market their wares to the public as being authentically crafted by indigenous artisans; being of substantial import to the ability of the Abenaki to sustain themselves economically. Indigenous recognition of the Nulhegan and Missisquoi Abenaki is an entirely reasonable concept; unless, apparently, one is a member of that great throng of “thinkers” who ply their trade under the Golden Dome in Montpelier. It is important to note that the Abenaki are not seeking a land-grab or monetary settlement from the State, merely an indigenous recognition to enhance the marketing of their crafts.

Here’s the rub: the aforementioned 2006 Act was defective, as it did not meet the standard of process required for full official State recognition, as set forth under federal guidelines [See 18 U.S.C. § 1159(c)(3)(B) and 25 U.S.C. § 305e(d)(3)(B)]. As such, the Abenaki remain without the level of recognition that the Act was intended to impart upon them. A bill to amend this legislative Oops! is pending in the House (H.124). However, the proposed amendment is currently languishing in Montpelier’s labyrinth; a quintessential example of the inefficiency of State government via bureaucracy. As usual, what should be a simple legislative “fix” gets mired into a legislative “mix.”

Meanwhile, Vermont—through its Department of Tourism—continues to perpetrate blatant political hypocrisy by promoting and capitalizing upon the mystique of the Abenaki culture—in order to draw tourism to the State—yet, its Legislature fails to take the necessary step to fully acknowledge the Nulhegan and Missisquoi Abenaki as an extant and viable community. The Abenaki culture is not a museum piece to be exploited merely for the sake of advancing Vermont’s ability to capture tourist (i.e., tax) dollars. If the Abenaki presence adds to Vermont’s coffers, then so be it; however, the State should be required to give proper recognition to that from which it is reaping a benefit. Moreover, the State’s potential to reap said benefit increases in ratio to the value of the Abenaki’s wares. Thus, the State only adds idiocy to insult by not enacting a law which adds value to a taxable commodity.

For those who may be thinking, “So what? This issue only affects a handful of indigenous Vermonters in Orleans and Franklin Counties!” Not so fast. This is not merely an Abenaki issue, existing in a vacuum. Rather, on principle, it’s one that should resonate for all Vermonters. The Nulhegan and Missisquoi Abenaki community’s redress of grievance for recognition from Montpelier is applicable to the broader idea of self-rule for all people. If the State is allowed a “pass” on denying recognition of an entire community of people, how much easier does it then become for the State to deny recognition of us as individuals? How much of a leap is it from “no recognition of a community; thus, no right to market authenticate crafts” to “no recognition of an individual; thus, no right to gainful employment”? Such a leap cannot be made wide enough to preserve liberty for all—liberty is only as unalienable as it is for each individual citizen, comprising each community of individuals. For the sake of liberty for all, let this be a clarion call-issue for all Vermonters to contact their elected representatives in Montpelier, urging support of H.124!

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Vermonster Beer

I’m sure most of you reading this blog have heard by now of the conflict between the Monster Energy Drink Corporation and Rock Art Brewery in Morrisville.  Last month, Monster sent a letter to Rock Art demanding that they discontinue use of the name ‘Vermonster’ for one of their beers, because it could be confused with ‘Monster.’  You might now be saying to yourself, “Wait, Monster is an energy drink, not a beer?” Yes, but Monster wants to get in the beer business and doesn’t want confusion when they do.  For Rock Art to fight this battle in the courts would lead them to bankruptcy, so local-brew fans in Vermont have rallied in their support by sending letters to Monster, forming a Facebook group, signing an online petition and most importantly, despite a financial loss, many Vermont beverage distributors have pulled all Monster products from their shelves.  Below is a video of Rock Art owner Matt Nadeau explaining the situation.

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Competition for jobs at the worst level since they started keeping track…

According to an article from the San Francisco Gate, there are currently 6.3 unemployed workers competing for each available job.  That compares to 2.8:1, which was the highest level recorded during the 2003 recession. Green shoots, eh? If this keeps up for much longer, we might start having to reajust what is considered the optimal American lifestyle.  Newsflash: it resembles nothing on TV.

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David Walker at Norwich University

David M. Walker, former Head of the Governmental Accountability Office, now President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation will be at Norwich University next Tuesday the 13th at 7pm. The event is being held, Free of Charge, at Plumley Armory. For reservations, call Jackie Barnett  at 802 485 2633   or email   jbarnett@norwich.edu.

The video is Mr. Walker’s appearance on 60 minutes.

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