Friday, October 31, 2008

A Halloween Surprise Promotes Fair Trade

Imagine, for a moment, answering your door on Halloween night to this scenario: a smiling child hands you a shard of chocolate. Not an ordinary chunk of chocolate, but a bit made with chocolate that has been grown and harvested by workers who are not under-age, not under-paid, and not exploited in any manner.

Sponsored by a human rights group called Global Exchange, this game of Reverse Halloween is now in its second year. You can find out more about this new twist on a weary ritual, by visiting the website of Reverse-Trick-or-Treating, at

The website tells us more, including this ...

Thousands of costumed trick-or-treaters across all fifty states in the US, as well as Canada, are turning the traditional Halloween ritual on its head; for the second year in a row, it is the trick-or-treaters who are handing out chocolate...hundreds of thousands of Fair Trade Certified™ chocolate samples to raise awareness of: the persistent problems of poverty in cocoa-growing communities; the use of exploited child labor in the cocoa fields of countries like Cote D'Ivoire, which produces 40 percent of the world's cocoa; and environmental damage from unsustainable farming practices.

Participants will reach out to nearly a quarter of a million households in the United States and Canada in a single night with their important message: Fair Trade Certified™ chocolate provides Americans, who consume nearly half the world's chocolate, with a path toward resolving these problems.

Z. And here is the rest of it.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Baseball: Phillies Win World Series 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 &mdash 9:58 p.m.

Philadelphia fans are now howling in the streets, after the Phillies defeated the Tampa Bay Devil Rays tonight, 4 to 3, to win the fifth and final game of the 2008 World Series. Starting Pitcher Cole Hamels was named series MVP; and relief pitcher Brad Lidge continued his record of perfection, getting his 48th save of the season, in 48 tries. Great pitching and defense won the series for the Phillies, and some timely hits by the lesser-known players aided the cause.

The Phillies have been playing baseball for 126 seasons: the team was founded in 1883, and called the "Quakers". The last (and only previous) World Series victory by the Phillies happened 28 years ago, in the year 1980. The last sports championship for the city was a basketball triumph by the 76ers, in 1983. After 25 years of losing, Philadelphia fans have a lot of celebrating to catch up on tonight.

"In Northeast Philadelphia, thousands more gathered at the intersection of Frankford and Cottman Avenues, where city workers had greased the light poles to keep fans from dangerous, inebriated ascents. Instead, fans climbed onto the roofs of cars or onto the shoulders of their parents and waved towels and held up signs that said, "Finally," or in the local vernacular, "Phinallie." A dog walked about clad in a Phillies cape."
New York Times article

Most of the experts and oddsmakers were dead wrong when they picked the Rays to win. The experts forgot about the all-important psychological factors that make the vital difference. Like the 2007 Phillies who rejoiced after beating the Mets for the N.L. East crown, the Rays must have been elated to knock out the powerful Boston Red Sox -- and like last year's Phillies, they celebrated too soon.

The Phillies got hot at just the right time, winning 24 out their 30 final games, and going undefeated in their home stadium. The Phillies' post-season playoff record was a remarkable 11 wins and 3 defeats. The name of the game is "team" -- and the Phillies excelled in unselfishness. When Brad Lidge struck out the last batter to end the World Series, he fell to his knees, raised his arms to the sky and shouted: "We did it!"

The New York Times stories about the victory are here:

For Phillies and City, Title Is Worth the Wait

25 Years of Frustration, Popped Like a Cork

Rain or Shine, a Champion Again

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

NY Times Editorial Board Endorses Obama for President

The NY Times editorial board writes:

Barack Obama for President

Hyperbole is the currency of presidential campaigns, but this year the nation’s future truly hangs in the balance.

The United States is battered and drifting after eight years of President Bush’s failed leadership. He is saddling his successor with two wars, a scarred global image and a government systematically stripped of its ability to protect and help its citizens — whether they are fleeing a hurricane’s floodwaters, searching for affordable health care or struggling to hold on to their homes, jobs, savings and pensions in the midst of a financial crisis that was foretold and preventable.

As tough as the times are, the selection of a new president is easy. After nearly two years of a grueling and ugly campaign, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has proved that he is the right choice to be the 44th president of the United States.

Mr. Obama has met challenge after challenge, growing as a leader and putting real flesh on his early promises of hope and change. He has shown a cool head and sound judgment. We believe he has the will and the ability to forge the broad political consensus that is essential to finding solutions to this nation’s problems.

In the same time, Senator John McCain of Arizona has retreated farther and farther to the fringe of American politics, running a campaign on partisan division, class warfare and even hints of racism. His policies and worldview are mired in the past. His choice of a running mate so evidently unfit for the office was a final act of opportunism and bad judgment that eclipsed the accomplishments of 26 years in Congress.

Given the particularly ugly nature of Mr. McCain’s campaign, the urge to choose on the basis of raw emotion is strong. But there is a greater value in looking closely at the facts of life in America today and at the prescriptions the candidates offer. The differences are profound.

Mr. McCain offers more of the Republican every-man-for-himself ideology, now lying in shards on Wall Street and in Americans’ bank accounts. Mr. Obama has another vision of government’s role and responsibilities.

In his convention speech in Denver, Mr. Obama said, “Government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves: protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.”

Since the financial crisis, he has correctly identified the abject failure of government regulation that has brought the markets to the brink of collapse.

The Economy

The American financial system is the victim of decades of Republican deregulatory and anti-tax policies. Those ideas have been proved wrong at an unfathomable price, but Mr. McCain — a self-proclaimed “foot soldier in the Reagan revolution” — is still a believer.

Mr. Obama sees that far-reaching reforms will be needed to protect Americans and American business.

Mr. McCain talks about reform a lot, but his vision is pinched. His answer to any economic question is to eliminate pork-barrel spending — about $18 billion in a $3 trillion budget — cut taxes and wait for unfettered markets to solve the problem.

Mr. Obama is clear that the nation’s tax structure must be changed to make it fairer. That means the well-off Americans who have benefited disproportionately from Mr. Bush’s tax cuts will have to pay some more. Working Americans, who have seen their standard of living fall and their children’s options narrow, will benefit. Mr. Obama wants to raise the minimum wage and tie it to inflation, restore a climate in which workers are able to organize unions if they wish and expand educational opportunities.

Mr. McCain, who once opposed President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy as fiscally irresponsible, now wants to make them permanent. And while he talks about keeping taxes low for everyone, his proposed cuts would overwhelmingly benefit the top 1 percent of Americans while digging the country into a deeper fiscal hole.

National Security

The American military — its people and equipment — is dangerously overstretched. Mr. Bush has neglected the necessary war in Afghanistan, which now threatens to spiral into defeat. The unnecessary and staggeringly costly war in Iraq must be ended as quickly and responsibly as possible.

While Iraq’s leaders insist on a swift drawdown of American troops and a deadline for the end of the occupation, Mr. McCain is still taking about some ill-defined “victory.” As a result, he has offered no real plan for extracting American troops and limiting any further damage to Iraq and its neighbors.

Mr. Obama was an early and thoughtful opponent of the war in Iraq, and he has presented a military and diplomatic plan for withdrawing American forces. Mr. Obama also has correctly warned that until the Pentagon starts pulling troops out of Iraq, there will not be enough troops to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Mr. McCain, like Mr. Bush, has only belatedly focused on Afghanistan’s dangerous unraveling and the threat that neighboring Pakistan may quickly follow.

Mr. Obama would have a learning curve on foreign affairs, but he has already showed sounder judgment than his opponent on these critical issues. His choice of Senator Joseph Biden — who has deep foreign-policy expertise — as his running mate is another sign of that sound judgment. Mr. McCain’s long interest in foreign policy and the many dangers this country now faces make his choice of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska more irresponsible.

Both presidential candidates talk about strengthening alliances in Europe and Asia, including NATO, and strongly support Israel. Both candidates talk about repairing America’s image in the world. But it seems clear to us that Mr. Obama is far more likely to do that — and not just because the first black president would present a new American face to the world.

Mr. Obama wants to reform the United Nations, while Mr. McCain wants to create a new entity, the League of Democracies — a move that would incite even fiercer anti-American furies around the world.

Unfortunately, Mr. McCain, like Mr. Bush, sees the world as divided into friends (like Georgia) and adversaries (like Russia). He proposed kicking Russia out of the Group of 8 industrialized nations even before the invasion of Georgia. We have no sympathy for Moscow’s bullying, but we also have no desire to replay the cold war. The United States must find a way to constrain the Russians’ worst impulses, while preserving the ability to work with them on arms control and other vital initiatives.

Both candidates talk tough on terrorism, and neither has ruled out military action to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program. But Mr. Obama has called for a serious effort to try to wean Tehran from its nuclear ambitions with more credible diplomatic overtures and tougher sanctions. Mr. McCain’s willingness to joke about bombing Iran was frightening.

The Constitution and the Rule of Law

Under Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the justice system and the separation of powers have come under relentless attack. Mr. Bush chose to exploit the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, the moment in which he looked like the president of a unified nation, to try to place himself above the law.

Mr. Bush has arrogated the power to imprison men without charges and browbeat Congress into granting an unfettered authority to spy on Americans. He has created untold numbers of “black” programs, including secret prisons and outsourced torture. The president has issued hundreds, if not thousands, of secret orders. We fear it will take years of forensic research to discover how many basic rights have been violated.

Both candidates have renounced torture and are committed to closing the prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

But Mr. Obama has gone beyond that, promising to identify and correct Mr. Bush’s attacks on the democratic system. Mr. McCain has been silent on the subject.

Mr. McCain improved protections for detainees. But then he helped the White House push through the appalling Military Commissions Act of 2006, which denied detainees the right to a hearing in a real court and put Washington in conflict with the Geneva Conventions, greatly increasing the risk to American troops.

The next president will have the chance to appoint one or more justices to a Supreme Court that is on the brink of being dominated by a radical right wing. Mr. Obama may appoint less liberal judges than some of his followers might like, but Mr. McCain is certain to pick rigid ideologues. He has said he would never appoint a judge who believes in women’s reproductive rights.

The Candidates

It will be an enormous challenge just to get the nation back to where it was before Mr. Bush, to begin to mend its image in the world and to restore its self-confidence and its self-respect. Doing all of that, and leading America forward, will require strength of will, character and intellect, sober judgment and a cool, steady hand.

Mr. Obama has those qualities in abundance. Watching him being tested in the campaign has long since erased the reservations that led us to endorse Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries. He has drawn in legions of new voters with powerful messages of hope and possibility and calls for shared sacrifice and social responsibility.

Mr. McCain, whom we chose as the best Republican nominee in the primaries, has spent the last coins of his reputation for principle and sound judgment to placate the limitless demands and narrow vision of the far-right wing. His righteous fury at being driven out of the 2000 primaries on a racist tide aimed at his adopted daughter has been replaced by a zealous embrace of those same win-at-all-costs tactics and tacticians.

He surrendered his standing as an independent thinker in his rush to embrace Mr. Bush’s misbegotten tax policies and to abandon his leadership position on climate change and immigration reform.

Mr. McCain could have seized the high ground on energy and the environment. Earlier in his career, he offered the first plausible bill to control America’s emissions of greenhouse gases. Now his positions are a caricature of that record: think Ms. Palin leading chants of “drill, baby, drill.”

Mr. Obama has endorsed some offshore drilling, but as part of a comprehensive strategy including big investments in new, clean technologies.

Mr. Obama has withstood some of the toughest campaign attacks ever mounted against a candidate. He’s been called un-American and accused of hiding a secret Islamic faith. The Republicans have linked him to domestic terrorists and questioned his wife’s love of her country. Ms. Palin has also questioned millions of Americans’ patriotism, calling Republican-leaning states “pro-America.”

This politics of fear, division and character assassination helped Mr. Bush drive Mr. McCain from the 2000 Republican primaries and defeat Senator John Kerry in 2004. It has been the dominant theme of his failed presidency.

The nation’s problems are simply too grave to be reduced to slashing “robo-calls” and negative ads. This country needs sensible leadership, compassionate leadership, honest leadership and strong leadership. Barack Obama has shown that he has all of those qualities.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Barack Obama: The New Yorker's Choice for President

History will be made on November 4, as Americans choose whether to move bravely toward a sustainable future, or to continue a descent into barbarism in many realms: economic, environmental, educational, and social.

The New Yorker essay on October 13 (The Choice), is powerfully written, and signed "The Editors", although it is not difficult to detect the shrewd hand of Hendrik Hertzberg pushing the political pen. The essay begins with these words:

"Never in living memory has an election been more critical than the one fast approaching—that’s the quadrennial cliché, as expected as the balloons and the bombast. And yet when has it ever felt so urgently true? When have so many Americans had so clear a sense that a Presidency has—at the levels of competence, vision, and integrity—undermined the country and its ideals?"

Read the entire essay here:

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Does McCain Understand Modern Economics ?

Washington D.C.

Before slinging any more mud at Barack Obama, the McCain campaign might want to explain McCain's ties with a convicted felon, and McCain's history of bad judgment about the American economy. McCain has been a strong supporter of de-regulation and non-regulation: letting the big corporations do almost anything they want to do. That bad judgment caused the famous S&L scandal (discussed in this video), and it caused the current meltdown: the worst economic crisis since America's Great Depression.

Here is a video that every undecided voter should watch, then verify:

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Is There Big Money in Selling Domain Names?

Is it still possible to make money buying and selling Internet domain names? ... The business of domain name speculation is a strange admixture of the California gold rush, a hockey brawl, and a geek-filled remake of the film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World.

Domaineering is a chaotic business, and a complex one. By the end of the first quarter of the year 2008, more than 14 million new domain names had been registered, and the grand total of all domain names registered exceeded 162 million. The .com TLDs were by far the most popular; with growing demands for domain names that end in .de (Germany), .cn (China), .net, .uk (United Kingdom) and .org. Other popular domain names end in .info, .nl (Netherlands), .eu (European Union), and .biz. According to a recent study (The Verisign Domain Name Industry Brief), the enormous growth "is driven by continued global Internet adoption." Roughly 75% of all domains that are purchased are renewed; and if a domain name has a web site on it (think: the game Monopoly with houses) then it is even more likely to be renewed.

But can you make any money buying and selling domains? ... If you are planning to invest in a name — or wondering if you should do it — your first move is the easiest: pick up and read a copy of David Kesmodel's book: The Domain Game.

The Domain Game
How People Get Rich From Internet Domains
by David Kesmodel
Paperback, 192 pages
Publisher: Eurocom Books

An interesting read from start to finish, the book covers the history of domain name speculation, the players who risked a lot (of money and time) and came up smiling, and a closing chapter with advice about how to play this intriguing game. Kesmodel does a superb job of explaining everything important about the business: from cybersquatting to typosquatting; from the big sales to the tremendous disappointments; from pay per click advertising to the cunning Karl Rove who — before the Bush election — bought up a number of Bush-related domain names, including some insulting ones.

The domain name industry is still young, and Kesmodel does not shy from exposing some of its questionable practices. "Domain tasting"is one of these: a domain name registrar will buy up thousands of names, hold them for a few days, and then return the least valuable of these for full credit, before the 5-day credit window expires.

The book is well-documented with references, and it tells the story of the domain name game by telling the stories of the people who invented it — most of whom were able to turn enormous profits.

Whether or not there's money to be made today, by the small investor, is an unanswered question. But by reading The Domain Game — learning how the system works, and following the author's advice in the last chapter (and following up with the resources in the second appendix)— you'll enter this mad, mad, mad, mad aspect of the Internet armed with useful knowledge, and the best possible chance to hit it big.

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