U.S. heat wave kills at least 50

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Record-high temperatures are being reported across parts of the Midwest and Southern United States. However, the extreme heat has turned deadly for many. Over 50 deaths are being blamed on the heat, with the latest deaths coming from Alabama and Missouri.

In Kentucky, a fire broke out at an electricity substation, forcing the Tennessee Valley Authority to request major electrical consumers to reduce their power use.

In Nashville, yesterday’s high temperature reached 102ºF. Nashville has seen 13 days this month where the high temperature reached above 100ºF.

The extreme heat wave is now expected to move into Ohio, a state where very heavy rainfall caused evacuations and considerable structural damage. The National Weather Service predicts heat indexes to soar as high as 104 degrees.

Owner and manager of Moroccan factory arrested over 55-fatality fire

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Police have arrested the owner of a mattress factory in Hay Hassini, Casablanca, Morocco which burned down in a disaster that claimed 55 lives. His son, who was the factory’s manager, was also arrested.

Those killed — 35 of whom were women — were trapped inside by locked fire exits, which were barricaded to stop theft during working hours. “The people who died were either asphyxiated or burned,” commented a firefighter. 17 were wounded. Moustapha Taouil of the Casablanca civil protection service said the blaze was triggered by an inadequatly maintained electric saw on the ground floor. The initial fire quickly engulfed all four storeys of the building.

The Rosamor factory was clearly operating unsafely, officials said. “It’s a building with a ground floor and three upper floors specialising in making furniture, therefore there were highly inflammable products,” said Taouil. “We confirmed during our examination that the owners of the premises failed to respect legal requirements for this kind of industry including staff training… the owner in contravention of the law, locked staff inside the plant apparently to prevent theft of raw material. It was this that prevented them getting out. The fire was caused by lack of proper maintenance of certain machines and electrical installations.” He said a short circuit on the ground floor, which was filled with power saws, triggered the disaster.

As a result of the investigatons, “The plant’s owner, Adil Moufarreh, and his son Abdelali Moufarreh, who was the manager, have been taken into custody after having been questioned by police,” said an official.

28-year-old factory employee Fadila Khadija said “There was no emergency exit, the extinguishers were empty and the working conditions were difficult.” One source said that windows were also unusable as they were covered with iron bars. 20-year-old survivor Omar Elaaz said “I was working on the first floor as an upholsterer. The smoke came up from the ground floor where the foam rubber, wood and glue are stored. I used a gas bottle to break the wire mesh that protects every window.” 31-year-old upholsterer Hakim Hakki told of his own lucky escape and its effect on him from hospital: “I jumped from the third floor with four other colleagues while the women, who didn’t dare to follow us, perished in the inferno. God saved me but I’ll never forget those who died.”

The father of deceased 19-year-old Abdelazziz Darif said his son was paid 250 dirhams (20 euro/31 US dollars) per week and did not have social insurance.

Race to save Chilean miners trapped underground from spiralling into depression continues

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It has emerged that the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground after the mine they were working in collapsed could be brought to the surface in a shorter time than was initially feared. While officials publicly announced that the men would not be brought to the surface until Christmas, sources inside technical meetings have revealed that they could in fact be on the surface by early November. The news comes as families were allowed to speak by radio-telephone to their trapped loved ones on Sunday. Over the weekend, video images filmed by the miners emerged showing the miners playing dominoes at a table and singing the Chilean national anthem. The miners also used the camera to send video messages to their families on the surface, saying that they regularly broke into tears, but were feeling better having received food and water.

The grainy nightvision images, filmed on a high definition camcorder that was sent down a small shaft to the mine, show the men in good spirits, chanting “long live Chile, and long live the miners.” They are unshaven and stripped to the waist because of the heat underground, and are seen wearing white clinical trousers that have been designed to keep them dry. Giving a guided tour of the area they are occupying, Mario Sepúlveda, one of the miners, explains they have a “little cup to brush our teeth”, and a place where they pray each day. “We have everything organized,” he tells the camera. Gesturing to the table in the center of the room, he says that “we meet here every day. We plan, we have assemblies here every day so that all the decisions we make are based on the thoughts of all 33.” Another unidentified miner asks to rescuers, “get us out of here soon, please.” A thermometer is shown in the video, reading 29.5C (85F).

As the film continues, it becomes evident that the miners have stuck a poster of a topless woman on the wall. The miners appear shy, and one man puts his hand to his face, presumably dazzled by the light mounted on the cameraman’s helmet. One miner sent a message to his family. “Be calm”, he says. “We’re going to get out of here. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your efforts.” Another said that the miners are “sure that there are people here in Chile that are big people, that are powerful people, that are intelligent people, and they have the technology and they will all work together to get us out of here.” Speaking to the camera, one says: “we have had the great fortune that trapped in this mine there are good, professional people. We have electricians, we have mechanics, we have machine operators and we will let you know that while you are working to rescue us on the surface, we are down here ready to help you too.” It has been reported that Mario Gómez, 63, has become the group’s “spiritual leader”, having worked in the mines for over fifty years. He has requested that materials to build a shrine be sent down to the cavern.

Upon seeing the video in a private screening, family members, who are living in a small village of tents at the entrance to the San José copper-gold mine—which they have named Camp Hope—were elated. “He’s skinny, bearded and it was painful to see him with his head hanging down, but I am so happy to see him alive”, said Ruth Contreras, the mother of Carlos Bravo, who is trapped in the mine. The video, of which only a small portion has been released to the public, shows the miners, many of them wearing helmets, cracking jokes and thanking the rescuers for their continued efforts. The supplies are being sent to the men through a small shaft only twelve centimeters wide, and a laboratory has been set up with the purpose of designing collapsible cots and miniature sandwiches, which can be sent down such a narrow space.

CNN reported on Friday that “officials are splitting the men into two shifts so one group sleeps while the other works or has leisure time .. On average, each man has lost 22 pounds (10 kilograms) since they became trapped three weeks ago, and dehydration remains a threat. But a survey of the men indicates that at least nine miners are still too overweight to fit through the proposed rescue shaft. Initially, the miners survived by draining water from a water-cooled piece of equipment. To stay hydrated in the 90-degree mine, each miner must drink eight or nine pints of water per day.”

But while there are jubilant celebrations on the surface that the miners are alive, officials are now nervous that the miners could become depressed, trapped in a dark room the size of a small apartment. Chilean health minister Jaime Mañalich said that, on the video, he saw the telltale signs of depression. “They are more isolated, they don’t want to be on the screen, they are not eating well”, he said. “I would say depression is the correct word.” He said that doctors who had watched the video had observed the men suffering from “severe dermatological problems.” Dr. Rodrigo Figueroa, head of the trauma, stress and disaster unit at the Catholic University in Santiago, Chile, explained that “following the euphoria of being discovered, the normal psychological reaction would be for the men to collapse in a combination of fatigue and stress … People who are trained for emergencies – like these miners – tend to minimize their own needs or to ignore them. When it is time to ask for help, they don’t.” NASA has advised emergency workers that entertaining the miners would be a good idea. They are to be sent a television system complete with taped football matches. Another dilemma facing Mañalich is whether the miners should be permitted to smoke underground. While nicotine gum has been delivered to the miners, sending down cigarettes is a plan that has not been ruled out.

With the news that drilling of the main rescue tunnel was expected to begin on Monday, officials have informed the media that they hope to have the miners out of the mine by Christmas—but sources with access to technical meetings have suggested that the miners could actually be rescued by the first week of November. A news report described the rescue plan—”the main focus is a machine that bores straight down to 688m and creates a chimney-type duct that could be used to haul the miners out one by one in a rescue basket. A second drilling operation will attempt to intercept a mining tunnel at a depth of roughly 350m. The miners would then have to make their way through several miles of dark, muddy tunnels and meet the rescue drill at roughly the halfway point of their current depth of 688m.” Iván Viveros Aranas, a Chilean policeman working at Camp Hope, told reporters that Chile “has shown a unity regardless of religion or social class. You see people arriving here just to volunteer, they have no relation at all to these families.”

But over the weekend, The New York Times reported that the “miners who have astonished the world with their discipline a half-mile underground will have to aid their own escape — clearing 3,000 to 4,000 tons of rock that will fall as the rescue hole is drilled, the engineer in charge of drilling said Sunday … The work will require about a half-dozen men working in shifts 24 hours a day.” Andrés Sougarret, a senior engineer involved in operating the drill said that “the miners are going to have to take out all that material as it falls.”

The families of those trapped were allowed to speak to them by radio-telephone on Sunday—a possibility that brought reassurance both the miners and those on the surface. The Intendant of the Atacama Region, Ximena Matas, said that there had been “moments of great emotion.” She continued to say that the families “listened with great interest and they both felt and realized that the men are well. This has been a very important moment, which no doubt strengthens their [the miners’] morale.” The phone line is thought to be quite temperamental, but it is hoped that soon, those in the mine and those in Camp Hope will be able to talk every day. “To hear his voice was a balm to my heart … He is aware that the rescue is not going to happen today, that it will take some time. He asked us to stay calm as everything is going to be OK … He sounded relaxed and since it was so short I didn’t manage to ask anything. Twenty seconds was nothing”, said said Jessica Cortés, who spoke to her husband Víctor Zamora, who was not even a miner, but a vehicle mechanic. “He went in that day because a vehicle had broken down inside the mine … At first they told us he had been crushed [to death].”

Esteban Rojas sent up a letter from inside the mine, proposing to his long-time partner Jessica Yáñez, 43. While they have officially been married for 25 years, their wedding was a civil service—but Rojas has now promised to have a church ceremony which is customary in Chile. “Please keep praying that we get out of this alive. And when I do get out, we will buy a dress and get married,” the letter read. Yáñez told a newspaper that she thought he was never going to ask her. “We have talked about it before, but he never asked me … He knows that however long it takes, I’ll wait for him, because with him I’ve been through good and bad.”

Personal Assistant New York Get To Know Their Duties

Personal Assistant New York Get to Know Their Duties

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BSLMnyc

When we watch movies, we can see personal assistants portrayed as efficient individuals and as people with a very shrewd approach towards their duties. On the other hand, the bosses of these people are portrayed as extremely dependent on them. This is true in most of the cases and personal assistant play an important role in the day-to-day activities of many businessmen. Even though, the actual work of people appointed for this position differ from one industry to another, they generally work in a pressure situation. For any person, who wishes to become a personal assistant, some qualities like alertness, clarity of thought and confidence are highly essential. Let us have a look at some of the duties of personal assistants to whatever industry they are appointed:

Administrative assistance: The most important duty of PAs is to offer assistance and support with respect to daily tasks. These daily tasks might involve a lot of effort and time and ignoring these fundamental tasks can create a lot of problems to the PAs. Businessmen cannot perform these tasks for themselves and this is where a personal assistant comes into picture and they are appointed mainly for performing these day to day activities in such a way that their boss can remain focused on their core activities. The day-to-day activities include coordinating appointments, booking flights, etc

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Secretarial duties: In addition to administrative assistance duties, they will also have to perform secretarial duties like taking minutes of the meeting, arrangement of meeting and taking care of cancellation of meeting if any, taking care of visitors, attending calls on behalf of the boss, etc

Other duties: Other duties include discretionary powers and in the absence of the boss, the PA will have to take some administrative decisions and this might include some financial decisions pertaining to some promotional events. Even in some organizations, they might be required to keep track of purchase and storage of office supplies.

For businessmen operating in New York, there are service providers enabling them to find the best personal assistant New York and these service providers act as a bridge between companies and efficient personal assistants. Any businessmen looking for the best Personal Assistant New York can contact the service provider through email or phone by clearing specifying their requirements. As a result, the service providers offer the best PA, who has very good experience in similar industry. The service of the best PA is highly essential in such a way that businessmen can concentrate on their promotional activities.

This content has been taken from http://www.ideamarketers.com/?articleid=3319221&CFID=190803750&CFTOKEN=47160948

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Open software developers meet at FOSDEM 2008

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Hundreds of developers of freely licensed and open source software from all over Europe met in Brussels, Belgium this weekend for FOSDEM 2008. The 8th edition attracted considerably more visitors than previous editions, mainly from Belgium and its neighbouring countries the Netherlands, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, but also from other European countries and even from the United States.

During the conference weekend, presentations touched on programming languages, build systems, gaming (such as Battle for Wesnoth, Crystal Space, Globulation 2), packaging, virtualisation and web applications. The conference also has rooms (called DevRooms) were developers who usually work together via the internet can meet in real life and share thoughts on their projects; CentOS, Fedora, CrossDesktop, Drupal, GNOME, KDE, Mozilla, OpenSUSE and X.org had the biggest rooms this year. The corridors were filled with stands from organisations such as the Free Software Foundation Europe and the Free Knowledge Foundation, Debian, Ubuntu, OpenOffice.org, etc.

Since FOSDEM brings many European open software developers to Brussels, it also provides an important networking opportunity. FOSDEM traditionally kicks off Belgium-style on Friday with a beer event, but during the entire weekend several groups hold parties all over town. Wikinews reporters attended a barbecue hosted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on Friday for an interview with EFF and Open Rights Group representatives about the upcoming E.U. proposal to extend copyright for performers to 95 years. Wikinews also interviewed Drupal founder and Acquia CTO Dries Buytaert about Drupal and how Acquia will relate to the Drupal developer community.

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Debt Consolidation Home Loan For Hassle Free Life}

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Debt Consolidation Home Loan For Hassle Free Life

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ArvindWhat are debt consolidation home loans?

You may have incurred a number of debts in the form of credit card bills, health bills, vehicle loans among others, but as a homeowner you are at a distinct advantage. Homeownership makes the process of securing a home equity loan akin to a second mortgage which is also known as a debt consolidation home loan easier. The basic intent for this debt consolidation loan is to facilitate repayment of existing debts by collating them and making single monthly outflows against your home as security. This borrowing is enabled at flexible repayment terms with low rates of interest.

How do debt consolidation home loans work?

Simply put, this concept evaluates the equity value of your home which is arrived at by subtracting the debt amount from the current market value of the dwelling in question. Financial institutions will study your application and approve it after surveying the asset placed as collateral and considering factors like your potential for repayment and the terms of the loan, amount of debt involved and then take your home as security in exchange for funds to pay off your creditors.

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Note that these debt consolidation home loans are not free but come with a fee, a fixed repayment term which may span durations of seven, ten, or fifteen years and with low rates of interest and low monthly outflows which enables savings creation.

Advantages and Disadvantages of debt consolidation mortgages:

Securing a debt consolidation home loan may be a brilliant scheme to collate and finally ease the debt burden especially if you have less cash in hand. However, know that debt consolidation does not eliminate the debt in total. The debt exists. Instead the bills come from a different source. Home ownership enables you to build equity in your home and apply for reasonable and affordable debt consolidation home loans if needed. Be aware that debt consolidation can be undertaken only through comprehensive planning and contemplation.

Most importantly, you will need to stop accumulating additional debts. Many consumers incur excessive credit card debt which contributes to difficulties in regularizing the monthly loan payments thus making the situation worse for you. In the event of a default, know that the asset placed as collateral: the home will be lost. So before going in for a second mortgage on your home, ensure that you can repay the home equity loan in the first place.

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Plane crashes into office block in Austin, Texas/suicide note

This is the online suicide letter authored by Andrew Stack, the man believed to be responsible for flying a light aircraft into a building in Austin, Texas. It was originally posted at Stack’s site, http://embeddedart.com/. The hosting company, T35, took the site offline per an FBI request. The note is reproduced here in its entirety.

If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt asking yourself, “Why did this have to happen?” The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time. The writing process, started many months ago, was intended to be therapy in the face of the looming realization that there isn’t enough therapy in the world that can fix what is really broken. Needless to say, this rant could fill volumes with example after example if I would let it. I find the process of writing it frustrating, tedious, and probably pointless… especially given my gross inability to gracefully articulate my thoughts in light of the storm raging in my head. Exactly what is therapeutic about that I’m not sure, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

We are all taught as children that without laws there would be no society, only anarchy. Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, our government stands for justice for all. We are further brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place, and that we should be ready to lay our lives down for the noble principals represented by its founding fathers. Remember? One of these was “no taxation without representation”. I have spent the total years of my adulthood unlearning that crap from only a few years of my childhood. These days anyone who really stands up for that principal is promptly labeled a “crackpot”, traitor and worse.

While very few working people would say they haven’t had their fair share of taxes (as can I), in my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.

Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the “terrible health care problem”. It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.

And justice? You’ve got to be kidding!

How can any rational individual explain that white elephant conundrum in the middle of our tax system and, indeed, our entire legal system? Here we have a system that is, by far, too complicated for the brightest of the master scholars to understand. Yet, it mercilessly “holds accountable” its victims, claiming that they’re responsible for fully complying with laws not even the experts understand. The law “requires” a signature on the bottom of a tax filing; yet no one can say truthfully that they understand what they are signing; if that’s not “duress” than [sic] what is. If this is not the measure of a totalitarian regime, nothing is.

How did I get here?

My introduction to the real American nightmare starts back in the early ‘80s. Unfortunately after more than 16 years of school, somewhere along the line I picked up the absurd, pompous notion that I could read and understand plain English. Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having ‘tax code’ readings and discussions. In particular, zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful “exemptions” that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy. We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the “best”, high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business), and then began to do exactly what the “big boys” were doing (except that we weren’t steeling [sic] from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God). We took a great deal of care to make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done.

The intent of this exercise and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living. However, this is where I learned that there are two “interpretations” for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us… Oh, and the monsters are the very ones making and enforcing the laws; the inquisition is still alive and well today in this country.

That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0. It made me realize for the first time that I live in a country with an ideology that is based on a total and complete lie. It also made me realize, not only how naive I had been, but also the incredible stupidity of the American public; that they buy, hook, line, and sinker, the crap about their “freedom”… and that they continue to do so with eyes closed in the face of overwhelming evidence and all that keeps happening in front of them.

Before even having to make a shaky recovery from the sting of the first lesson on what justice really means in this country (around 1984 after making my way through engineering school and still another five years of “paying my dues”), I felt I finally had to take a chance of launching my dream of becoming an independent engineer.

On the subjects of engineers and dreams of independence, I should digress somewhat to say that I’m sure that I inherited the fascination for creative problem solving from my father. I realized this at a very young age.

The significance of independence, however, came much later during my early years of college; at the age of 18 or 19 when I was living on my own as student in an apartment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My neighbor was an elderly retired woman (80+ seemed ancient to me at that age) who was the widowed wife of a retired steel worker. Her husband had worked all his life in the steel mills of central Pennsylvania with promises from big business and the union that, for his 30 years of service, he would have a pension and medical care to look forward to in his retirement. Instead he was one of the thousands who got nothing because the incompetent mill management and corrupt union (not to mention the government) raided their pension funds and stole their retirement. All she had was social security to live on.

In retrospect, the situation was laughable because here I was living on peanut butter and bread (or Ritz crackers when I could afford to splurge) for months at a time. When I got to know this poor figure and heard her story I felt worse for her plight than for my own (I, after all, I thought I had everything to in front of me). I was genuinely appalled at one point, as we exchanged stories and commiserated with each other over our situations, when she in her grandmotherly fashion tried to convince me that I would be “healthier” eating cat food (like her) rather than trying to get all my substance from peanut butter and bread. I couldn’t quite go there, but the impression was made. I decided that I didn’t trust big business to take care of me, and that I would take responsibility for my own future and myself.

Return to the early ‘80s, and here I was off to a terrifying start as a ‘wet-behind-the-ears’ contract software engineer… and two years later, thanks to the fine backroom, midnight effort by the sleazy executives of Arthur Andersen (the very same folks who later brought us Enron and other such calamities) and an equally sleazy New York Senator (Patrick Moynihan), we saw the passage of 1986 tax reform act with its section 1706.

For you who are unfamiliar, here is the core text of the IRS Section 1706, defining the treatment of workers (such as contract engineers) for tax purposes. Visit this link for a conference committee report (http://www.synergistech.com/1706.shtml#ConferenceCommitteeReport) regarding the intended interpretation of Section 1706 and the relevant parts of Section 530, as amended. For information on how these laws affect technical services workers and their clients, read our discussion here (http://www.synergistech.com/ic-taxlaw.shtml).

SEC. 1706. TREATMENT OF CERTAIN TECHNICAL PERSONNEL.

(a) IN GENERAL – Section 530 of the Revenue Act of 1978 is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new subsection:

(d) EXCEPTION. – This section shall not apply in the case of an individual who pursuant to an arrangement between the taxpayer and another person, provides services for such other person as an engineer, designer, drafter, computer programmer, systems analyst, or other similarly skilled worker engaged in a similar line of work.

(b) EFFECTIVE DATE. – The amendment made by this section shall apply to remuneration paid and services rendered after December 31, 1986.

Note:

· “another person” is the client in the traditional job-shop relationship.

· “taxpayer” is the recruiter, broker, agency, or job shop.

· “individual”, “employee”, or “worker” is you.

Admittedly, you need to read the treatment to understand what it is saying but it’s not very complicated. The bottom line is that they may as well have put my name right in the text of section (d). Moreover, they could only have been more blunt if they would have came out and directly declared me a criminal and non-citizen slave. Twenty years later, I still can’t believe my eyes.

During 1987, I spent close to $5000 of my ‘pocket change’, and at least 1000 hours of my time writing, printing, and mailing to any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen; none did, and they universally treated me as if I was wasting their time. I spent countless hours on the L.A. freeways driving to meetings and any and all of the disorganized professional groups who were attempting to mount a campaign against this atrocity. This, only to discover that our efforts were being easily derailed by a few moles from the brokers who were just beginning to enjoy the windfall from the new declaration of their “freedom”. Oh, and don’t forget, for all of the time I was spending on this, I was loosing income that I couldn’t bill clients.

After months of struggling it had clearly gotten to be a futile exercise. The best we could get for all of our trouble is a pronouncement from an IRS mouthpiece that they weren’t going to enforce that provision (read harass engineers and scientists). This immediately proved to be a lie, and the mere existence of the regulation began to have its impact on my bottom line; this, of course, was the intended effect.

Again, rewind my retirement plans back to 0 and shift them into idle. If I had any sense, I clearly should have left abandoned engineering and never looked back.

Instead I got busy working 100-hour workweeks. Then came the L.A. depression of the early 1990s. Our leaders decided that they didn’t need the all of those extra Air Force bases they had in Southern California, so they were closed; just like that. The result was economic devastation in the region that rivaled the widely publicized Texas S&L fiasco. However, because the government caused it, no one gave a shit about all of the young families who lost their homes or street after street of boarded up houses abandoned to the wealthy loan companies who received government funds to “shore up” their windfall. Again, I lost my retirement.

Years later, after weathering a divorce and the constant struggle trying to build some momentum with my business, I find myself once again beginning to finally pick up some speed. Then came the .COM bust and the 911 nightmare. Our leaders decided that all aircraft were grounded for what seemed like an eternity; and long after that, ‘special’ facilities like San Francisco were on security alert for months. This made access to my customers prohibitively expensive. Ironically, after what they had done the Government came to the aid of the airlines with billions of our tax dollars … as usual they left me to rot and die while they bailed out their rich, incompetent cronies WITH MY MONEY! After these events, there went my business but not quite yet all of my retirement and savings.

By this time, I’m thinking that it might be good for a change. Bye to California, I’ll try Austin for a while. So I moved, only to find out that this is a place with a highly inflated sense of self-importance and where damn little real engineering work is done. I’ve never experienced such a hard time finding work. The rates are 1/3 of what I was earning before the crash, because pay rates here are fixed by the three or four large companies in the area who are in collusion to drive down prices and wages… and this happens because the justice department is all on the take and doesn’t give a fuck about serving anyone or anything but themselves and their rich buddies.

To survive, I was forced to cannibalize my savings and retirement, the last of which was a small IRA. This came in a year with mammoth expenses and not a single dollar of income. I filed no return that year thinking that because I didn’t have any income there was no need. The sleazy government decided that they disagreed. But they didn’t notify me in time for me to launch a legal objection so when I attempted to get a protest filed with the court I was told I was no longer entitled to due process because the time to file ran out. Bend over for another $10,000 helping of justice.

So now we come to the present. After my experience with the CPA world, following the business crash I swore that I’d never enter another accountant’s office again. But here I am with a new marriage and a boatload of undocumented income, not to mention an expensive new business asset, a piano, which I had no idea how to handle. After considerable thought I decided that it would be irresponsible NOT to get professional help; a very big mistake.

When we received the forms back I was very optimistic that they were in order. I had taken all of the years information to Bill Ross, and he came back with results very similar to what I was expecting. Except that he had neglected to include the contents of Sheryl’s unreported income; $12,700 worth of it. To make matters worse, Ross knew all along this was missing and I didn’t have a clue until he pointed it out in the middle of the audit. By that time it had become brutally evident that he was representing himself and not me.

This left me stuck in the middle of this disaster trying to defend transactions that have no relationship to anything tax-related (at least the tax-related transactions were poorly documented). Things I never knew anything about and things my wife had no clue would ever matter to anyone. The end result is… well, just look around.

I remember reading about the stock market crash before the “great” depression and how there were wealthy bankers and businessmen jumping out of windows when they realized they screwed up and lost everything. Isn’t it ironic how far we’ve come in 60 years in this country that they now know how to fix that little economic problem; they just steal from the middle class (who doesn’t have any say in it, elections are a joke) to cover their asses and it’s “business-as-usual”. Now when the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die for the mistakes… isn’t that a clever, tidy solution.

As government agencies go, the FAA is often justifiably referred to as a tombstone agency, though they are hardly alone. The recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies in their eight years certainly reinforced for all of us that this criticism rings equally true for all of the government. Nothing changes unless there is a body count (unless it is in the interest of the wealthy sows at the government trough). In a government full of hypocrites from top to bottom, life is as cheap as their lies and their self-serving laws.

I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants. I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change. I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at “big brother” while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough.

I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less. I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are. Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer. The cruel joke is that the really big chunks of shit at the top have known this all along and have been laughing, at and using this awareness against, fools like me all along.

I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.

Joe Stack (1956-2010)

02/18/2010

NTSB releases updates on status of 3 major US investigations

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the agency responsible for investigating transportation accidents in the United States, released updates on three major investigations on June 14.

The NTSB, well known publicly for its involvement in the investigation of aviation incidents which involve harm or loss of human life, is also an agency that oversees the transportation of refined petroleum and gas products, chemicals and minerals.

The agency determined the cause of a natural gas pipeline explosion that killed six. It also detailed the cause of an accidental release of 204,000 gallons of anhydrous ammonia from a pipeline in an environmentally sensitive area, and released preliminary information involving two commercial aircraft coming within 30-50 feet of each other on a runway.

In the gas explosion disaster, the towing vessel Miss Megan, which was of specifications that did not require inspection by the United States Coast Guard, was being operated in the West Cote Blanche Bay oil field in Louisiana by Central Boat Rentals on behalf of Athena Construction on October 12, 2006. The Miss Megan was pushing barge IBR 234, which was tied along the starboard side of barge Athena 106, en route to a pile-driving location. Athena Construction did not require its crews to pin mooring spuds (vertical steel shafts extending through wells in the bottom of the boat and used for mooring) securely in place on its barges and consequently this had not been done. During the journey, the aft spud on the Athena 106 released from its fully raised position. The spud dropped into the water and struck a submerged, high-pressure natural gas pipeline. The resulting gas released ignited and created a fireball that engulfed the towing vessel and both barges. The master of the towing vessel and four barge workers were killed. The Miss Megan deckhand and one barge worker survived. One barge worker is officially listed as missing.

The NTSB blames Athena Construction for the disaster, citing in the final report that Athena Construction’s manual contained no procedures mandating the use of the safety devices on the spud winch except during electrical work. It was found that if the Athena 106 crew had used the steel pins to secure the retracted spuds during their transit, a pin would have prevented the aft spud from accidentally deploying. Furthermore, the spud would have remained locked in its lifted position regardless of whether the winch brake mechanism, the spud’s supporting cable, or a piece of connecting hardware had failed.

The NTSB also found that contributing to the accident was the failure of Central Boat Rentals to require, and the Miss Megan master to ensure, that the barge spuds were securely pinned before getting under way. The Board noted that investigators found no evidence that the Miss Megan master or deckhand checked whether the spuds had been properly secured before the tow began. While Central Boat Rentals had a health and safety manual and trained its crews, the written procedures did not specifically warn masters about the need to secure spuds or other barge equipment before navigating. The NTSB stated that the company’s crew should have been trained to identify potential safety hazards on vessels under their control.

NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker said of the investigation’s results, “Having more rigorous requirements in place could have prevented this accident from occurring. Not only do these regulations need to be put in place but it is imperative that they are enforced and adhered to.”

The NTSB has made a number of safety recommendations as a result of this accident and the subsequent investigation. Recommendations were made to Athena Construction and Central Boat Rentals to develop procedures and train the employees of its barges to use the securing pins to hold spuds safely in place before transiting from one site to another.

The most major of the other recommendations are:

To the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:

  • Direct the Maritime Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health to issue the following documents document to the maritime industry: (1) a fact sheet regarding the accident, and (2) a guidance document regarding the need to secure the gear on barges, including spud pins, before the barges are moved, and detailing any changes to your memorandum of understanding with the Coast Guard.

To the U. S. Coast Guard

  • Finalize and implement the new towing vessel inspection regulations and require the establishment of safety management systems appropriate for the characteristics, methods of operation, and nature of service of towing vessels.
  • Review and update your memorandum of understanding with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to specifically address your respective oversight roles on vessels that are not subject to Coast Guard inspection.

The NTSB also released the result of its investigation into an environmental disaster in Kansas on October 27, 2004 in which 204,000 gallons (4,858 barrels) of anhydrous ammonia was spilled from a ruptured pipeline in Kingman into an environmentally sensitive area. Chemicals from the pipeline entered a nearby stream and killed more than 25,000 fish, including some fish from threatened species.

The incident reached the scale that it did due to operator error after the initial rupture. The 8 5/8-inch diameter steel pipeline, which was operated by Enterprise Products Operating L.P., burst at 11:15 a.m. in an agricultural area about 6 miles east of Kingman, Kansas. A drop in pipeline pressure, indicating abnormal conditions or a possible compromise in pipeline integrity, set off alarms displayed on the computerized pipeline monitoring system. Shortly after the first alarm the pipeline controller, in an attempt to remedy the low pressure, increased the flow of anhydrous ammonia into the affected section of pipeline. A total of 33 minutes elapsed between the time when the first alarm indicated a problem with the pipeline and the initiation of a shutdown.

In its initial report to the National Response Center (NRC), the pipeline operator’s accident reporting contractor reported a release of at least 20 gallons of ammonia, telling the NRC that an updated estimate of material released would be reported at a later time. No such report was ever made. Because of the inaccurate report, the arrival of representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency was delayed by a full day, affecting the oversight of the environmental damage mitigation efforts.

The cause of the rupture itself was determined to be a pipe gouge created by heavy equipment damage to the pipeline during construction in 1973 or subsequent excavation activity at an unknown time that initiated metal fatigue cracking and led to the eventual rupture of the pipeline.

“We are very fortunate that such highly toxic chemicals of the size and scope involved in this accident were not released in a populated area,” commented Rosenker. “Had this same quantity of ammonia been released near a town or city, the results could have been catastrophic.”

As a result of this accident, the NTSB made the following safety recommendations:

To the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration:

  • Require that a pipeline operator must have a procedure to calculate and provide a reasonable initial estimate of released product in the telephonic report to the National Response Center.
  • Require that a pipeline operator must provide an additional telephonic report to the National Response Center if significant new information becomes available during the emergency response.
  • Require an operator to revise its pipeline risk assessment plan whenever it has failed to consider one of more risk factors that can affect pipeline integrity.

To Enterprise Products Operating L.P.:

  • Provide initial and recurrent training for all controllers that includes simulator or noncomputerized simulations of abnormal operating conditions that indicate pipeline leaks.

“The severity of this release of dangerous chemicals into the community could have been prevented,” said Rosenker. “The safety recommendations that we have made, if acted upon, will reduce the likelihood of this type of accident happening again.”

As well as concluding their investigation of the above accidents, the NTSB also released preliminary information regarding a serious runway incursion at San Francisco International Airport between two commercial aircraft on May 26, 2007.

At about 1:30 p.m. the tower air traffic controller cleared SkyWest Airlines flight 5741, an Embraer 120 arriving from Modesto, California, to land on runway 28R. Forgetting about the arrival airplane, the same controller then cleared Republic Airlines flight 4912, an Embraer 170 departing for Los Angeles, to take off from runway 1L, which intersects runway 28R.

After the SkyWest airliner touched down, the Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS) alerted and the air traffic controller transmitted “Hold, Hold, Hold” to the SkyWest flight crew in an attempt to stop the aircraft short of runway 1L. The SkyWest crew applied maximum braking that resulted in the airplane stopping in the middle of runway 1L. As this was occurring, the captain of Republic Airlines flight 4912 took control of the aircraft from the first officer, realized the aircraft was traveling too fast to stop, and initiated an immediate takeoff. According to the crew of SkyWest 5741, the Republic Airlines aircraft overflew theirs by 30 to 50 feet. The Federal Aviation Administration has categorized the incident as an operational error.

The NTSB sent an investigator to San Francisco, who collected radar data, recorded air traffic control communications, and flight crew statements, and interviewed air traffic control personnel prior to the NTSB making the preliminary release.

Interview with US political activist and philosopher Noam Chomsky

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Noam Chomsky is a professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Linguistics and Philosophy. At the age of 40 he was credited with revolutionizing the field of modern linguistics. He was one of the first opponents of the Vietnam War, and is a self described Libertarian Socialist. At age 80 he continues to write books; his latest book, Hegemony or Survival, was a bestseller in non-fiction. According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index Professor Chomsky is the eighth most cited scholar of all time.

On March 13, Professor Chomsky sat down with Michael Dranove for an interview in his MIT office in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

((Michael Dranove)) I just wanted to know if you had any thoughts on recent NATO actions and the protests coming up at the 60th NATO conference, I know you’re speaking at the counter-conference.

Could be I give so many talks I can’t remember (laughs).

On the NATO conference, well I mean the obvious question is why should NATO exist? In fact you can ask questions about why it should ever have existed, but now why should it exist. I mean the theory was, whether you believe it or not, that it would be a defensive alliance against potential Soviet aggression, that’s the basic doctrine. Well there’s no defense against Soviet aggression, so whether you believe that doctrine or not that’s gone.

When the Soviet Union collapsed there had been an agreement, a recent agreement, between Gorbachev and the U.S government and the first Bush administration. The agreement was that Gorbachev agreed to a quite remarkable concession: he agreed to let a united Germany join the NATO military alliance. Now it is remarkable in the light of history, the history of the past century, Germany alone had virtually destroyed Russia, twice, and Germany backed by a hostile military alliance, centered in the most phenomenal military power in history, that’s a real threat. Nevertheless he agreed, but there was a quid pro quo, namely that NATO should not expand to the east, so Russia would at least have a kind of security zone. And George Bush and James Baker, secretary of state, agreed that NATO would not expand one inch to the east. Gorbachev also proposed a nuclear free weapons zone in the region, but the U.S wouldn’t consider that.

Okay, so that was the basis on which then shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed. Well, Clinton came into office what did he do? Well one of the first things he did was to back down on the promise of not expanding NATO to the east. Well that’s a significant threat to the Soviet Union, to Russia now that there was no longer any Soviet Union, it was a significant threat to Russia and not surprisingly they responded by beefing up their offensive capacity, not much but some. So they rescinded their pledge not to use nuclear weapons on first strike, NATO had never rescinded it, but they had and started some remilitarization. With Bush, the aggressive militarism of the Bush administration, as predicted, induced Russia to extend further its offensive military capacity; it’s still going on right now. When Bush proposed the missile defense systems in Eastern Europe, Poland and Czechoslovakia, it was a real provocation to the Soviet Union. I mean that was discussed in U.S arms control journals, that they would have to regard as a potential threat to their strategic deterrent, meaning as a first strike weapon. And the claim was that it had to do with Iranian missiles, but forget about that.

Why should we even be debating NATO, is there any reason why it should exist?

Take say on Obama, Obama’s national security advisor James Jones former Marine commandant is on record of favoring expansion of NATO to the south and the east, further expansion of NATO, and also making it an intervention force. And the head of NATO, Hoop Scheffer, he has explained that NATO must take on responsibility for ensuring the security of pipelines and sea lanes, that is NATO must be a guarantor of energy supplies for the West. Well that’s kind of an unending war, so do we want NATO to exist, do we want there to be a Western military alliance that carries out these activities, with no pretense of defense? Well I think that’s a pretty good question; I don’t see why it should, I mean there happens to be no other military alliance remotely comparable — if there happened to be one I’d be opposed to that too. So I think the first question is, what is this all about, why should we even be debating NATO, is there any reason why it should exist?

((Michael Dranove)) We’ve seen mass strikes all around the world, in countries that we wouldn’t expect it. Do think this is a revival of the Left in the West? Or do you think it’s nothing?

It’s really hard to tell. I mean there’s certainly signs of it, and in the United States too, in fact we had a sit down strike in the United States not long ago, which is a very militant labor action. Sit down strikes which began at a significant level in the 1930’s were very threatening to management and ownership, because the sit down strike is one step before workers taking over the factory and running it and kicking out the management, and probably doing a better job. So that’s a frightening idea, and police were called in and so on. Well we just had one in the United States at the Republic Windows and Doors Factory, it’s hard to know, I mean these things are just hard to predict, they may take off, and they may take on a broader scope, they may fizzle away or be diverted.

((Michael Dranove)) Obama has said he’s going to halve the budget. Do you think it’s a little reminiscent of Clinton right before he decided to institute welfare reform, basically destroying half of welfare, do you think Obama is going to take the same course?

There’s nothing much in his budget to suggest otherwise, I mean for example, he didn’t really say much about it, about the welfare system, but he did indicate that they are going to have to reconsider Social Security. Well there’s nothing much about social security that needs reconsideration, it’s in pretty good financial shape, probably as good as it’s been in its history, it’s pretty well guaranteed for decades in advance. As long as any of the famous baby boomers are around social Security will be completely adequate. So its not for them, contrary to what’s being said. If there is a long term problem, which there probably is, there are minor adjustments that could take care of things.

So why bring up Social Security at all? If it’s an issue at all it’s a very minor one. I suspect the reason for bringing it up is, Social Security is regarded as a real threat by power centers, not because of what it does, very efficient low administrative costs, but for two reasons. One reason is that it helps the wrong people. It helps mostly poor people and disabled people and so on, so that’s kind of already wrong, even though it has a regressive tax. But I think a deeper reason is that social security is based on an idea that power centers find extremely disturbing, namely solidarity, concern for others, community, and so on.

If people have a commitment to solidarity, mutual aid, support, and so on, that’s dangerous because that could lead to concern for other things.

The fundamental idea of Social Security is that we care about whether the disabled widow across town has food to eat. And that kind of idea has to be driven out of people’s heads. If people have a commitment to solidarity, mutual aid, support, and so on, that’s dangerous because that could lead to concern for other things. Like, it’s well known, for example, that markets just don’t provide lots of options, which today are crucial options. So for example, markets today permit you to buy one brand of car or another. But a market doesn’t permit you to decide “I don’t want a car, I want a public transportation system”. That’s just not a choice made available on the market. And the same is true on a wide range of other issues of social significance, like whether to help the disabled widow across town. Okay, that’s what communities decide, that’s what democracy is about, that’s what social solidarity is about and mutual aid, and building institutions by people for the benefit of people. And that threatens the system of domination and control right at the heart, so there’s a constant attack on Social Security even though the pretexts aren’t worth paying attention to.

There are other questions on the budget; the budget is called redistributive, I mean, very marginally it is so, but the way it is redistributive to the extent that it is, is by slightly increasing the tax responsibility to the extremely wealthy. Top couple of percent, and the increase is very marginal, doesn’t get anywhere near where it was during the periods of high growth rate and so on. So that’s slightly redistributive, but there are other ways to be redistributive, which are more effective, for example allowing workers to unionize. It’s well known that where workers are allowed to unionize and most of them want to, that does lead to wages, better working conditions, benefits and so on, which is redistributive and also helps turn working people into more of a political force. And instead of being atomized and separated they’re working to together in principle, not that humans function so wonderfully, but at least it’s a move in that direction. And there is a potential legislation on the table that would help unionize, the Employee Free Choice Act. Which Obama has said he’s in favor of, but there’s nothing about it in the budget, in fact there’s nothing in the budget at all as far as I can tell about improving opportunities to unionize, which is an effective redistributive goal.

And there’s a debate right now, it happens to be in this morning’s paper if Obama’s being accused by Democrats, in fact particularly by Democrats, of taking on too much. Well actually he hasn’t taken on very much, the stimulus package; I mean anybody would have tried to work that out with a little variation. And the same with the bailouts which you can like or not, but any President is going to do it. What is claimed is that he’s adding on to it health care reform, which will be very expensive, another hundreds of billions of dollars, and it’s just not the time to do that. I mean, why would health care reform be more expensive? Well it depends which options you pick. If the healthcare reforms maintain the privatized system, yeah, it’s going to be very expensive because it’s a hopelessly inefficient system, it’s very costly, its administrative costs are far greater than Medicare, the government run system. So what that means is that he’s going to maintain a system which we know is inefficient, has poor outcomes, but is a great benefit to insurance companies, financial institutions, the pharmaceutical industry and so on. So it can save money, health care reform can be a method of deficit reduction. Namely by moving to an efficient system that provides health care to everyone, but that’s hardly talked about, its advocates are on the margins and its main advocates aren’t even included in the groups that are discussing it.

And if you look through it case after case there are a lot of questions like that. I mean, take unionization again, this isn’t in the budget but take an example. Obama, a couple of weeks ago, wanted to make a gesture to show his solidarity with the labor movement, which workers, well that’s different (chuckles) with the workers not the labor movement. And he went to go visit an industrial plant in Illinois, the plant was owned by Caterpillar. There was some protest over that, by human rights groups, church groups, and others because of Caterpillar’s really brutal role in destroying what’s left of Palestine. These were real weapons of mass destruction, so there were protests but he went anyway. However, there was a much deeper issue which hasn’t even been raised, which is a comment on our deep ideological indoctrination. I mean Caterpillar was the first industrial organization to resort to scabs, strikebreakers, to break a major strike. This was in the 1980’s, Reagan had already opened the doors with the air controllers, but this is the first in the manufacturing industry to do it. That hadn’t been done in generations. In fact, it was illegal in every industrial country except apartheid South Africa. But that was Caterpillar’s achievement helping to destroy a union by calling in scabs, and if you call in scabs forget about strikes, in other words, or any other labor action. Well that’s the plant Obama went to visit. It’s possible he didn’t know, because the level of indoctrination in our society is so profound that most people wouldn’t even know that. Still I think that it’s instructive, if you’re interested in doing something redistributive, you don’t go to a plant that made labor history by breaking the principle that you can’t break strikes with scabs.

((Michael Dranove)) I live out in Georgia, and a lot of people there are ultra-right wing Ron Paul Libertarians. They’re extremely cynical. Is there any way for people on the left to reach out to them?

I think what you have to do is ask, what makes them Ron Paul Libertarians? I don’t happen to think that makes a lot of sense, but nevertheless underlying it are feelings that do make sense. I mean the feeling for example that the government is our enemy. It’s a very widespread feeling, in fact, that’s been induced by propaganda as well.

So pretty soon it will be April 15th, and the people in your neighborhood are going to have to send in their income taxes. The way they’re going to look at it, and the way they’ve been trained to look at it is that there is some alien force, like maybe from Mars, that is stealing our hard earned money from us and giving it to the government. Okay, well, that would be true in a totalitarian state, but if you had a democratic society you’d look at it the other way around You’d say “great, it’s April 15th, we’re all going to contribute to implement the plans that we jointly decided on for the benefit of all of us.” But that idea is even more frightening than Social Security. It means that we would have a functioning democracy, and no center of concentrated power is ever going to want that, for perfectly obvious reasons. So yes there are efforts, and pretty successful efforts to get people to fear the government as their enemy, not to regard it as the collective population acting in terms of common goals that we’ve decided on which would be what have to happen in a democracy. And is to an extent what does happen in functioning democracies, like Bolivia, the poorest country in South America. It’s kind of what’s happening there more or less. But that’s very remote from what’s happening here.

Well I think Ron Paul supporters can be appealed to on these grounds, they’re also against military intervention, and we can ask “okay, why?” Is it just for their own security, do they want to be richer or something? I doubt it, I think people are concerned because they think we destroyed Iraq and so on. So I think that there are lots of common grounds that can be explored, even if the outcomes, at the moment, look very different. They look different because they’re framed within fixed doctrines. But those doctrines are not graven in stone. They can be undermined.

Plane crashes into office block in Austin, Texas/suicide note

This is the online suicide letter authored by Andrew Stack, the man believed to be responsible for flying a light aircraft into a building in Austin, Texas. It was originally posted at Stack’s site, http://embeddedart.com/. The hosting company, T35, took the site offline per an FBI request. The note is reproduced here in its entirety.

If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt asking yourself, “Why did this have to happen?” The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time. The writing process, started many months ago, was intended to be therapy in the face of the looming realization that there isn’t enough therapy in the world that can fix what is really broken. Needless to say, this rant could fill volumes with example after example if I would let it. I find the process of writing it frustrating, tedious, and probably pointless… especially given my gross inability to gracefully articulate my thoughts in light of the storm raging in my head. Exactly what is therapeutic about that I’m not sure, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

We are all taught as children that without laws there would be no society, only anarchy. Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, our government stands for justice for all. We are further brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place, and that we should be ready to lay our lives down for the noble principals represented by its founding fathers. Remember? One of these was “no taxation without representation”. I have spent the total years of my adulthood unlearning that crap from only a few years of my childhood. These days anyone who really stands up for that principal is promptly labeled a “crackpot”, traitor and worse.

While very few working people would say they haven’t had their fair share of taxes (as can I), in my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.

Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the “terrible health care problem”. It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.

And justice? You’ve got to be kidding!

How can any rational individual explain that white elephant conundrum in the middle of our tax system and, indeed, our entire legal system? Here we have a system that is, by far, too complicated for the brightest of the master scholars to understand. Yet, it mercilessly “holds accountable” its victims, claiming that they’re responsible for fully complying with laws not even the experts understand. The law “requires” a signature on the bottom of a tax filing; yet no one can say truthfully that they understand what they are signing; if that’s not “duress” than [sic] what is. If this is not the measure of a totalitarian regime, nothing is.

How did I get here?

My introduction to the real American nightmare starts back in the early ‘80s. Unfortunately after more than 16 years of school, somewhere along the line I picked up the absurd, pompous notion that I could read and understand plain English. Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having ‘tax code’ readings and discussions. In particular, zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful “exemptions” that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy. We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the “best”, high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business), and then began to do exactly what the “big boys” were doing (except that we weren’t steeling [sic] from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God). We took a great deal of care to make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done.

The intent of this exercise and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living. However, this is where I learned that there are two “interpretations” for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us… Oh, and the monsters are the very ones making and enforcing the laws; the inquisition is still alive and well today in this country.

That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0. It made me realize for the first time that I live in a country with an ideology that is based on a total and complete lie. It also made me realize, not only how naive I had been, but also the incredible stupidity of the American public; that they buy, hook, line, and sinker, the crap about their “freedom”… and that they continue to do so with eyes closed in the face of overwhelming evidence and all that keeps happening in front of them.

Before even having to make a shaky recovery from the sting of the first lesson on what justice really means in this country (around 1984 after making my way through engineering school and still another five years of “paying my dues”), I felt I finally had to take a chance of launching my dream of becoming an independent engineer.

On the subjects of engineers and dreams of independence, I should digress somewhat to say that I’m sure that I inherited the fascination for creative problem solving from my father. I realized this at a very young age.

The significance of independence, however, came much later during my early years of college; at the age of 18 or 19 when I was living on my own as student in an apartment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My neighbor was an elderly retired woman (80+ seemed ancient to me at that age) who was the widowed wife of a retired steel worker. Her husband had worked all his life in the steel mills of central Pennsylvania with promises from big business and the union that, for his 30 years of service, he would have a pension and medical care to look forward to in his retirement. Instead he was one of the thousands who got nothing because the incompetent mill management and corrupt union (not to mention the government) raided their pension funds and stole their retirement. All she had was social security to live on.

In retrospect, the situation was laughable because here I was living on peanut butter and bread (or Ritz crackers when I could afford to splurge) for months at a time. When I got to know this poor figure and heard her story I felt worse for her plight than for my own (I, after all, I thought I had everything to in front of me). I was genuinely appalled at one point, as we exchanged stories and commiserated with each other over our situations, when she in her grandmotherly fashion tried to convince me that I would be “healthier” eating cat food (like her) rather than trying to get all my substance from peanut butter and bread. I couldn’t quite go there, but the impression was made. I decided that I didn’t trust big business to take care of me, and that I would take responsibility for my own future and myself.

Return to the early ‘80s, and here I was off to a terrifying start as a ‘wet-behind-the-ears’ contract software engineer… and two years later, thanks to the fine backroom, midnight effort by the sleazy executives of Arthur Andersen (the very same folks who later brought us Enron and other such calamities) and an equally sleazy New York Senator (Patrick Moynihan), we saw the passage of 1986 tax reform act with its section 1706.

For you who are unfamiliar, here is the core text of the IRS Section 1706, defining the treatment of workers (such as contract engineers) for tax purposes. Visit this link for a conference committee report (http://www.synergistech.com/1706.shtml#ConferenceCommitteeReport) regarding the intended interpretation of Section 1706 and the relevant parts of Section 530, as amended. For information on how these laws affect technical services workers and their clients, read our discussion here (http://www.synergistech.com/ic-taxlaw.shtml).

SEC. 1706. TREATMENT OF CERTAIN TECHNICAL PERSONNEL.

(a) IN GENERAL – Section 530 of the Revenue Act of 1978 is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new subsection:

(d) EXCEPTION. – This section shall not apply in the case of an individual who pursuant to an arrangement between the taxpayer and another person, provides services for such other person as an engineer, designer, drafter, computer programmer, systems analyst, or other similarly skilled worker engaged in a similar line of work.

(b) EFFECTIVE DATE. – The amendment made by this section shall apply to remuneration paid and services rendered after December 31, 1986.

Note:

· “another person” is the client in the traditional job-shop relationship.

· “taxpayer” is the recruiter, broker, agency, or job shop.

· “individual”, “employee”, or “worker” is you.

Admittedly, you need to read the treatment to understand what it is saying but it’s not very complicated. The bottom line is that they may as well have put my name right in the text of section (d). Moreover, they could only have been more blunt if they would have came out and directly declared me a criminal and non-citizen slave. Twenty years later, I still can’t believe my eyes.

During 1987, I spent close to $5000 of my ‘pocket change’, and at least 1000 hours of my time writing, printing, and mailing to any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen; none did, and they universally treated me as if I was wasting their time. I spent countless hours on the L.A. freeways driving to meetings and any and all of the disorganized professional groups who were attempting to mount a campaign against this atrocity. This, only to discover that our efforts were being easily derailed by a few moles from the brokers who were just beginning to enjoy the windfall from the new declaration of their “freedom”. Oh, and don’t forget, for all of the time I was spending on this, I was loosing income that I couldn’t bill clients.

After months of struggling it had clearly gotten to be a futile exercise. The best we could get for all of our trouble is a pronouncement from an IRS mouthpiece that they weren’t going to enforce that provision (read harass engineers and scientists). This immediately proved to be a lie, and the mere existence of the regulation began to have its impact on my bottom line; this, of course, was the intended effect.

Again, rewind my retirement plans back to 0 and shift them into idle. If I had any sense, I clearly should have left abandoned engineering and never looked back.

Instead I got busy working 100-hour workweeks. Then came the L.A. depression of the early 1990s. Our leaders decided that they didn’t need the all of those extra Air Force bases they had in Southern California, so they were closed; just like that. The result was economic devastation in the region that rivaled the widely publicized Texas S&L fiasco. However, because the government caused it, no one gave a shit about all of the young families who lost their homes or street after street of boarded up houses abandoned to the wealthy loan companies who received government funds to “shore up” their windfall. Again, I lost my retirement.

Years later, after weathering a divorce and the constant struggle trying to build some momentum with my business, I find myself once again beginning to finally pick up some speed. Then came the .COM bust and the 911 nightmare. Our leaders decided that all aircraft were grounded for what seemed like an eternity; and long after that, ‘special’ facilities like San Francisco were on security alert for months. This made access to my customers prohibitively expensive. Ironically, after what they had done the Government came to the aid of the airlines with billions of our tax dollars … as usual they left me to rot and die while they bailed out their rich, incompetent cronies WITH MY MONEY! After these events, there went my business but not quite yet all of my retirement and savings.

By this time, I’m thinking that it might be good for a change. Bye to California, I’ll try Austin for a while. So I moved, only to find out that this is a place with a highly inflated sense of self-importance and where damn little real engineering work is done. I’ve never experienced such a hard time finding work. The rates are 1/3 of what I was earning before the crash, because pay rates here are fixed by the three or four large companies in the area who are in collusion to drive down prices and wages… and this happens because the justice department is all on the take and doesn’t give a fuck about serving anyone or anything but themselves and their rich buddies.

To survive, I was forced to cannibalize my savings and retirement, the last of which was a small IRA. This came in a year with mammoth expenses and not a single dollar of income. I filed no return that year thinking that because I didn’t have any income there was no need. The sleazy government decided that they disagreed. But they didn’t notify me in time for me to launch a legal objection so when I attempted to get a protest filed with the court I was told I was no longer entitled to due process because the time to file ran out. Bend over for another $10,000 helping of justice.

So now we come to the present. After my experience with the CPA world, following the business crash I swore that I’d never enter another accountant’s office again. But here I am with a new marriage and a boatload of undocumented income, not to mention an expensive new business asset, a piano, which I had no idea how to handle. After considerable thought I decided that it would be irresponsible NOT to get professional help; a very big mistake.

When we received the forms back I was very optimistic that they were in order. I had taken all of the years information to Bill Ross, and he came back with results very similar to what I was expecting. Except that he had neglected to include the contents of Sheryl’s unreported income; $12,700 worth of it. To make matters worse, Ross knew all along this was missing and I didn’t have a clue until he pointed it out in the middle of the audit. By that time it had become brutally evident that he was representing himself and not me.

This left me stuck in the middle of this disaster trying to defend transactions that have no relationship to anything tax-related (at least the tax-related transactions were poorly documented). Things I never knew anything about and things my wife had no clue would ever matter to anyone. The end result is… well, just look around.

I remember reading about the stock market crash before the “great” depression and how there were wealthy bankers and businessmen jumping out of windows when they realized they screwed up and lost everything. Isn’t it ironic how far we’ve come in 60 years in this country that they now know how to fix that little economic problem; they just steal from the middle class (who doesn’t have any say in it, elections are a joke) to cover their asses and it’s “business-as-usual”. Now when the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die for the mistakes… isn’t that a clever, tidy solution.

As government agencies go, the FAA is often justifiably referred to as a tombstone agency, though they are hardly alone. The recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies in their eight years certainly reinforced for all of us that this criticism rings equally true for all of the government. Nothing changes unless there is a body count (unless it is in the interest of the wealthy sows at the government trough). In a government full of hypocrites from top to bottom, life is as cheap as their lies and their self-serving laws.

I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants. I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change. I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at “big brother” while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough.

I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less. I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are. Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer. The cruel joke is that the really big chunks of shit at the top have known this all along and have been laughing, at and using this awareness against, fools like me all along.

I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.

Joe Stack (1956-2010)

02/18/2010