Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ask a Chola joins the Writer's strike

Our favorite Chola is on the street again making friends and lending her Chola expertise to the writers on strike in front of Paramount Studios.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pirates & Emperors

A school house rock style explanation of imperialism and American foreign policy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tito Kayak Strikes Again



Tito Kayak, known by his mother as Alberto De Jesus Mercado, once again made news this week, as the local hero of the Puerto Rican environmental movement and general social activist once again climbed the construction cranes at the Paseo Caribe project in San Juan, PR. This time, local law enforcement were ordered like goons of the mafia to take him down and arrest him.

In a daring escape watched live by many on television, Tito managed to rappel down from the crane and unto a red kayak in the water below while police officers were kept at bay by his supporters. Tito Kayak then rowed himself under a bridge whose clearance was too low for the police powerboats and somehow managed to switch out of the kayak, so when the kayak was apprehended it wasn't him on board. Instead he was swimming across to the other shore. When he was spotted by the police helicopters, other supporters jumped into the water confusing the police further and finally guaranteeing his getaway. This would have made a great scene in a movie, but until his life story makes its way to the theaters you can watch video of his escape here.




[Update: Tito Kayak Turned himself in today to Police officers]

Monday, November 12, 2007

10 ways to avert the end of the American Empire

I have often been criticized for being anti-American, but that is an inaccurate portrayal of my points of view. I am highly critical of the United States because I expect more from it. As a citizen of the United States, I too have a stake in it's future and I do not want harm to come to it. For that reason I am offering here ten ways in which the United States can avert a fall from grace as a global superpower.

1) Rapidly privatize space exploration and travel: Space exploration has been a major driver of new technology development, from computers to medicine, but American leadership in this field is eroding fast. In the past 10 years the number of space faring nations has risen to 11, counting the European Space Agency as one. In the next few years Brazil and Kazakstan (which inherited the development and launch facilities of the former USSR) will inaugurate their own programs, and reaching the moon is the next logical goal. In order to out-do the investment potential of countries like India and China, the US must involve private industry to commercialize the endeavor. But it isn't just money, it's human resources that matter and command economies like China can place their best in research and development while the US cannot do so. Commercializing the space industry will draw the broadest possible net to make use of America's top scientists and engineers, as well as those from other countries, to ensure leadership.

2) Export the American population: Cultural exchanges are an old time proven method of bettering economic and political ties, but Americans do not travel often enough outside the country to reap the benefits. The Federal government should encourage travel and relocation of Americans to other countries, to live, work and study. Not mere tourism, but actual resettlement. Americans would be surprised to know that there are already American neighborhoods in many countries around the world and on every continent. This project would actually be similar to how the American population expanded across the continent throughout the 1800s. Doing this would not only increase American exports around the world but would facilitate diplomacy, and rapidly spread American concepts. Let's say that 10% of the population is willing at one point or another in their life to live in a foreign country for ten years, that means that at any one point in time there could be 30 million Americans living abroad, teaching others about American culture. No other international relations program in the world could compare.

3) Invest in infrastructure: Since the 1950's very little investment has gone into public infrastructure, beyond maintenance. In fact, other than Boston's Big Dig no major public works have been initiated, but mass mobility of the population remains important for a healthy economy. A major investment into interstate high speed trains and municipal public transportation will help facilitate mobility. From an economic point of view it will help alleviate the turns of the business cycle as people looking for employment will be better able to reach corporations with available jobs, by facilitating relocation, while also reducing the need for it. To make an analogy the US today is like New York without its subway system. There's simply no good reason why I cannot travel from New York to Chicago or Washington DC, without wasting so much time with airports, when it could be as easy as stepping into the subway.

4) Redesign the educational system and provide funding for it: Perhaps the greatest problem with the educational system is that it is wholly outdated. The current system was designed in the 1800s for an agricultural country and last updated at the turn of the century to aid industrialization. In other words, we have a system designed for kids to be able to return to the farm or work at a factory after school. Neither of these models represents modern American society. A look at the worlds top educational systems we find Finland and Japan both of which not only have longer school days but more of them. Essentially, by the time these students graduate they have 30 to 40% more schooling than American students and can speak on average 2.5 foreign languages other than their native language. In an information economy like the one developing globally, those students will not only be more successful, but also more adaptable to changing market conditions. In other words, if the US is going to be successful in the 21st century, it should educated its children for it. Oh, and as far as bringing religion to the schools, as some groups are lobbying for, the day they can charge a cellphone by prayer or turn polluted water into drinking water at the calling of miracles, then you can teach religion in schools, until then keep faith out of the science classroom.

5) Fund & organize 'Manhattan Project' for solar energy: Solar energy is the 'Holy Grail' of renewable energy resources, after cold fusion. While much of the knowledge is already there, the technology is still expensive and too inefficient for a mass consumer market. It is, nevertheless, extremely safe, and essentially limitless with billions of years before it runs out. Much like the efforts that brought atomic power to hands of mortal men from theory into reality in a short handful of years, a similar effort should be undertaken to bring some of the greatest minds to work on the development and popularization of solar power.

6) Encourage entrepreneurship through small business NYSE: Stock exchanges like the NYSE and Nasdaq are very important to the economy as they facilitate investment and reward corporate efficiency. Small businesses however are the driving force of the economy yet they are excluded from that important piece. A small business stock exchange, regional in nature perhaps, could help draw foreign and domestic investment to entrepreneurs who otherwise find it difficult to compete in a global market. Such exchanges would also help to diversify the business climate further and reduce the need for small business loans that can cripple the credit worthiness of a business. More independent businesses means greater economic activity and stability.

7) End the Cuban embargo: There are 11 million people sitting 90 miles away who would like to buy everything from a hamburger to iPods and cars and the only thing stopping them is a misguided policy that mistrusts the very capitalist system it espouses. The free market system is not perfect but it is a democratizing tool and if the US really wants to bring democracy to Cuba that is the fastest way to do it. Besides, just like China and Vietnam, Cuba has sought to change its economy to a free-market-like system, but unlike those other communist countries, the embargo on Cuba makes it impossible. It also impoverishes the US by denying American corporations of such an entrepreneurial consumer base, that by sheer geographic proximity would be wholly dominated by American products. The embargo also has a graver cost in terms of American credibility around the world as it makes the US look weak and fearful of Cuba, not to mention inhumane and capricious in policy.

8) Encourage urban agriculture: While farming is still a part of American life, the agriculture industry is dominated by a corporate superstructure and an inefficient transportation system. So despite the fact that most Americans do not know what a famine is, food security is a real issue. If freight transportation should come to a halt, be it by a labor strike or terrorism, urban centers would have less than one week's worth of food. This is a major catastrophe waiting to happen, and one for which no counter measure has been developed. Urban agriculture, like the victory gardens of WWII, could become a primary solution if developed prior to such a crisis. Urban agriculture could provide a new source of income for urban populations, diversify the food supply, and maintain a buffer against corporate upheavals in the industry.

9) Encourage development of an African Common Market: Africa is the world's most underdeveloped and forgotten market. That means that its importance will increase over the next few decades as the only real growth sector of the global economy. With 900 million people and the majority of the continent's population under the age of 25, Africa is largely untapped and under appreciated. Proximity to Europe and the Chinese economic expansion have however severely curtailed the influence of the American dollar since the last decade. In order to change this, it is important to first help Africa adopt a common market which could create a common currency, create a commodities market and integrate its banking system. One of the problems in Africa has been the fact that all of its countries are pitted against each other in the global economy. A common African market would lift all while protecting the continent's trade from problems in an individual country. An analogy is the impact the Euro has had in Europe, where the economic troubles of one country are absorbed by the rest while maintaining a collective trend in the positive end. Similar efforts are now taking place in Latin America and Asia. A common market would stabilize Africa, encourage democracy, and in effect allow it to deal with its domestic problems more efficiently. If the US wants to remain relevant in tomorrows most promising market, it should invest some time and money into this endeavor today unless it doesn't want 900 million new consumers.

10) Do not go to war against Iran: Imperial overstretch is a real concept proven by history and vastly ignored by most Americans. Part of the problem is that most Americans have such a simplistic view of the world that they are unable to see themselves as an empire; suggestions 2-9 in this article should help to change that. Most Americans fail to understand the dynamics of geopolitical strategy. Back when the population was smaller in the 1890s a greater proportion of the population understood that simply because the US was not a superpower and because those American's had the privilege of observing the British, French, and German Empires be empires. But Americans today live in a world where they believe America has been the greatest of powers since the revolution was won. That perspective robs Americans from understanding how easily a superpower can be demoted from its perch. Imperial overstretch is one way in which this happens. The privilege, in fact, of being an empire is to be able to flex one's muscle when needed with little risk. Unfortunately that risk is a variable that cannot be fully accounted for and empires which fail to calculate that risk appropriately are said to have "overstretched" themselves. When this occurs to one empire it provides an advantage to others. In a world where China, Russia, India, the European Union, and Brazil are all playing the game of empire, the US needs to really calculate the risks involved in a war against Iran or any other country. Some would argue that the US is already overstretched with Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the other empires are definitely testing the new boundaries of the American empire. If this is true, Iran will be played appropriately by Europe, and Russia to their benefit, while China, India, and Brazil all place their bets.

The best analysis's say a war against Iran will further raise the cost of oil, increase the national debt, and diminish military capacity for about a decade to come. All this, while further alienating our relations abroad, reducing American political influence, while reducing consumption of American exports. And still, there is the other problem of regional instability in the middle east, which will only be deepened by war against Iran.

Essentially, the best thing the US could do today to remain the hegemon on this planet is to make sure that it does not go to war until the mess in Iraq has been cleaned up, or until it has truly and appropriately calculated the risk involved in such a war and if those risks are worth it.

**These are my suggestions, they are worth as much as yours, but maybe someone in the NSA is reading this too and looking for ideas.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Rep. Kucinich presents impeachment charges against VP Cheney

Olbermann take Bush to task on torture

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann speaks about waterboarding and the Bush Administration's consent for torture.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Warehousing of the American Population: U.S. leads world in incarcerations.



"Freedom" may be the slogan of the United States, but the data shows something different. If someone where to ask you where are you most likely to be put in prison, the answer is the United States of America and not by a slight margin. Yes, the U.S. of A. is the world's top jailer. In fact, with only 4.6% of the world's population the U.S. accounts for 24% of the total world's inmates. This is according to the University of London's International Center for Prison Studies.

Here are their statistics
by totals and by rate per 100,000.

*Both lists also include all territories and colonies around the World.*


By total number in Prison
1 United States of America 2,245,189
2 China 1,565,771
3 Russian Federation 889,598
4 Brazil 419,551
5 India 332,112
6 Mexico 216,290
7 Thailand 161,844
8 Ukraine 160,046
9 South Africa 159,961
10 Iran 150,321
11 Indonesia 116,688
12 Vietnam 98,556
13 Poland 89,805
14 Philippines 89,639
15 Pakistan 89,370
16 Bangladesh 86,000
17 Turkey 82,742
18 Rwanda c.82,000
19 United Kingdom: England & Wales 80,229
20 Japan 77,932
21 Germany 76,629
22 Spain 66,129
23 Ethiopia c.65,000
24 Taiwan 64,279
25 Argentina 63,357
26 Egypt 61,845
27 Colombia 60,158
28 Cuba c.60,000
28 Myanmar (formerly Burma) c.60,000
30 France 52,009
31 Kazakhstan 51,538
32 Morocco 50,933
33 Uzbekistan 48,000
34 Kenya 47,036
35 Republic of (South) Korea 46,477
36 Tanzania 43,911
37 Chile 43,723
38 Malaysia 42,389
39 Algeria 42,000
40 Belarus 41,538
41 Peru 40,005
42 Nigeria 39,438
43 Italy 39,348
44 Canada 34,244
45 Romania 32,292
46 Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) c.30,000
47 Saudi Arabia 28,612
48 Uganda 26,273
49 Tunisia c.26,000
50 Australia 25,790
51 Sri Lanka 23,613
52 Turkmenistan c.22,000
53 Netherlands 21,013
54 Cameroon 20,000
55 Venezuela 19,853
56 Czech Republic 19,145
57 Georgia 18,138
58 Zimbabwe 17,967
59 Madagascar 17,495
60 Azerbaijan 16,969
61 Iraq 16,308
62 Hungary 15,720
63 Kyrgyzstan 15,127
64 Zambia 14,347
65 Puerto Rico (USA) 14,239
66 Yemen 14,000
67 Israel 13,909
68 Singapore 13,611
69 Libya 13,217
70 Portugal 12,803
71 Ghana 12,736
72 Dominican Republic 12,725
73 Ecuador 12,635
74 El Salvador 12,176
75 Sudan c.12,000
76 Honduras 11,589
77 Panama 11,447
78 Bulgaria 11,436
79 Malawi 11,269
80 Hong Kong (China) 11,211
81 Syria 10,599
82 Greece 10,113
83 Mozambique c.10,000
84 Tajikistan 9,900
85 Afghanistan 9,600
86 Belgium 9,597
87 Cote d'Ivoire 9,274
88 Austria 8,991
89 United Arab Emirates 8,927
90 Moldova (Republic of) 8,876
91 Serbia 8,600
92 Costa Rica 8,427
93 Slovakia 8,380
94 Cambodia 8,160
95 Lithuania 7,983
96 Bolivia 7,682
97 New Zealand 7,644
98 Guatemala 7,477
99 United Kingdom: Scotland 7,261
100 Sweden 7,175
101 Nepal 7,135
102 Burundi 7,022
103 Uruguay 6,947
104 Latvia 6,676
105 Mongolia 6,593
106 Senegal 6,425
107 Paraguay 6,264
108 Nicaragua 6,139
109 Angola 6,008
110 Lebanon 5,971
111 Botswana 5,917
112 Switzerland 5,888
113 Benin 5,834
114 Niger 5,709
115 Jordan 5,589
116 Jamaica 4,913
117 Namibia 4,814
118 Estonia 4,463
119 Haiti 4,443
120 Mali 4,407
121 Albania 4,300
122 Croatia 4,127
123 Papua New Guinea 4,056
124 Laos 4,020
125 Trinidad and Tobago 3,750
126 Denmark 3,626
127 Finland 3,595
128 Norway 3,533
129 Kuwait c.3,500
130 Chad 3,416
131 Armenia 3,342
132 Togo 3,200
133 Ireland, Republic of 3,080
134 Republic of Guinea 3,070
135 Burkina Faso 2,800
136 Gabon c.2,750
137 Swaziland 2,719
138 Lesotho 2,701
139 Mauritius 2,141
140 Macedonia (former Yugoslav Republic of) 2,026
141 Oman 2,020
142 Guyana 1,955
143 Bosnia and Herzegovina: Federation 1,615
144 Sierra Leone c.1,610
145 Suriname c.1,600
146 Bahamas 1,500
147 United Kingdom: Northern Ireland 1,462
148 Belize 1,338
149 Slovenia 1,301
150 Serbia and Montenegro: Kosovo/Kosova 1,199
151 Maldives 1,125
152 Barbados 1,039
153 Bosnia and Herzegovina: Republika Srpska 1,034
154 Central African Republic c.1,000
155 Fiji 967
156 Reunion (France) 962
157 Macau (China) 912
158 Congo (Brazzaville) c.900
159 Liberia 880
160 Mauritania 815
161 Netherlands Antilles (Netherlands) 780
162 Cape Verde (Cabo Verde) 755
163 Luxembourg 744
164 Montenegro 734
165 Guadeloupe (France) 718
166 Bahrain 701
167 Cyprus 662
168 Martinique (France) 649
169 Virgin Islands (USA) 596
170 Guam (USA) 595
171 Brunei Darussalam 522
172 St Lucia 503
173 Qatar 465
174 Gambia 450
175 Djibouti 384
176 St Vincent and the Grenadines 367
177 French Polynesia (France) 354
178 Malta 352
179 Grenada 334
180 Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor) c.320
181 New Caledonia (France) 316
182 Bermuda (UK) 306
183 Dominica 301
184 St. Kitts and Nevis 237
185 Cayman Islands (United Kingdom) 234
186 Aruba (Netherlands) 231
187 Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) 223
188 American Samoa (USA) 222
189 Solomon Islands 211
190 Comoros c.200
191 Antigua and Barbuda 197
192 Jersey (United Kingdom) 176
193 Sao Tome e Principe 160
194 Northern Mariana Islands (USA) 149
195 Seychelles 142
196 Greenland (Denmark) 122
197 Vanuatu 117
198 Mayotte (France) 116
199 Guernsey (United Kingdom) 115
200 Iceland 113
201 Virgin Islands (United Kingdom) 105
202 Tonga 102
203 Palau 97
204 Kiribati 88
205 Micronesia, Federated States of 86
206 Isle of Man (United Kingdom) 79
207 Andorra 61
208 Marshall Islands 43
209 Gibraltar (United Kingdom) 38
210 Monaco 34
211 Cook Islands (New Zealand) 27
212 Faeroe Islands (Denmark) 12
213 Liechtenstein 10
214 Tuvalu 5
215 Nauru 3
216 San Marino 1




By Rate of Incarceration, per 100,000 persons
1 United States of America 750
2 French Guiana/Guyane (France) 630
3 Russian Federation 628
4 St. Kitts and Nevis 604
5 Virgin Islands (USA) 549
6 Cuba c.531
7 Turkmenistan c.489
8 Palau 478
9 Bermuda (UK) 464
9 Virgin Islands (United Kingdom) 464
11 Bahamas 462
12 Belize 461
13 Cayman Islands (United Kingdom) 453
14 Dominica 437
15 Belarus 426
16 Georgia 401
17 American Samoa (USA) 384
17 Barbados 384
19 Grenada 372
20 Netherlands Antilles (Netherlands) 364
21 Puerto Rico (USA) 356
21 Suriname 356
23 Kazakhstan 348
24 Guam (USA) 345
24 Ukraine 345
26 Maldives 343
27 Panama 337
28 South Africa 335
29 Estonia 333
30 Botswana 329
31 Aruba (Netherlands) 324
32 St Vincent and the Grenadines 312
33 Singapore 309
34 St Lucia 303
35 Latvia 292
36 Trinidad and Tobago 288
36 United Arab Emirates 288
38 Kyrgyzstan 285
39 Antigua and Barbuda 284
40 Taiwan 281
41 Namibia 267
42 Tunisia c.263
43 Chile 262
44 Guyana 260
45 Thailand 249
46 Moldova (Republic of) 247
46 Swaziland 247
48 Mongolia 244
49 Poland 236
50 Lithuania 235
51 Brazil 219
52 Libya 217
53 Greenland (Denmark) 216
54 Iran 212
55 Israel 209
56 Azerbaijan 202
57 Mexico 198
58 Gabon 196
59 Jersey (United Kingdom) 193
59 Uruguay 193
61 Costa Rica 187
62 Czech Republic 186
63 Uzbekistan 184
64 New Zealand 183
64 Northern Mariana Islands (USA) 183
66 Jamaica 182
66 Macau (China) 182
68 Cape Verde (Cabo Verde) 178
69 Guernsey (United Kingdom) 176
70 El Salvador 174
70 Seychelles 174
72 Rwanda 170
73 Lebanon 168
74 Malaysia 164
75 Argentina 163
75 Martinique (France) 163
77 Honduras 161
77 Morocco 161
79 Luxembourg 160
80 Guadeloupe (France) 158
81 Hong Kong (China) 156
81 Hungary 156
83 Slovakia 155
84 Mauritius 153
85 Romania 150
86 Tajikistan 149
87 Bulgaria 148
87 United Kingdom: England & Wales 148
89 Spain 147
90 Dominican Republic 143
91 United Kingdom: Scotland 142
92 Peru 139
93 Brunei Darussalam 137
94 Albania 136
94 Gibraltar (United Kingdom) 136
94 Zimbabwe 136
97 French Polynesia (France) 132
97 Saudi Arabia 132
99 New Caledonia (France) 131
100 Kenya 130
100 Kuwait 130
102 Colombia 128
102 Netherlands 128
104 Algeria 127
104 Lesotho 127
106 Cook Islands (New Zealand) 126
107 Australia 125
107 Cameroon 125
109 Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) 123
110 Zambia 122
111 Myanmar (formerly Burma) c.120
111 Portugal 120
111 Reunion (France) 120
114 China 119
115 Serbia 117
116 Vietnam 116
117 Nicaragua 114
117 Sri Lanka 114
119 Tanzania 113
120 Fiji 112
120 Turkey 112
122 Austria 108
122 Montenegro 108
122 Philippines 108
125 Canada 107
126 Armenia 104
126 Isle of Man (United Kingdom) 104
126 Jordan 104
129 Monaco 102
130 Macedonia (former Yugoslav Republic of) 99
131 Paraguay 98
132 Republic of (South) Korea 96
133 Bahrain 95
134 Ecuador 94
135 Croatia 93
135 Germany 93
137 Ethiopia c.92
138 Belgium 91
138 Greece 91
138 Madagascar 91
141 Tonga 89
142 Burundi 88
142 Uganda 88
144 Egypt 87
145 Malta 86
146 France 85
147 Andorra 84
147 United Kingdom: Northern Ireland 84
149 Cyprus 83
149 Malawi 83
149 Sao Tome e Principe 83
149 Yemen 83
153 Bolivia 82
153 Kiribati 82
155 Oman 81
156 Micronesia, Federated States of 79
156 Sweden 79
156 Switzerland 79
159 Benin 75
159 Norway 75
161 Bosnia and Herzegovina: Republika Srpska 74
161 Venezuela 74
163 Marshall Islands 73
164 Ireland, Republic of 72
165 Laos 69
165 Papua New Guinea 69
167 Finland 68
168 Denmark 67
168 Italy 67
170 Slovenia 65
170 Togo 65
172 Serbia and Montenegro: Kosovo/Kosova 63
173 Bosnia and Herzegovina: Federation 62
174 Djibouti 61
174 Japan 61
176 Bangladesh 59
177 Cambodia 58
177 Syria 58
179 Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) c.57
179 Guatemala 57
179 Mayotte (France) 57
179 Pakistan 57
183 Ghana 55
183 Qatar 55
185 Iraq 54
186 Senegal 53
186 Vanuatu 53
188 Haiti 52
188 Indonesia 52
190 Mozambique 51
191 Cote d'Ivoire 49
192 Niger 46
193 Angola 44
194 Solomon Islands 42
194 Tuvalu 42
196 Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor) 41
197 Republic of Guinea 37
198 Iceland 36
198 Sudan c.36
200 Chad 35
201 Mali 33
202 Gambia 32
203 Afghanistan 30
203 Comoros c.30
203 India 30
206 Liechtenstein 29
206 Nigeria 29
208 Sierra Leone 28
209 Mauritania 26
209 Nepal 26
211 Faeroe Islands (Denmark) 25
211 Liberia 25
213 Central African Republic 24
214 Burkina Faso 23
214 Nauru 23
216 Congo (Brazzaville) 22