Here are my thoughts on the “new” climate emergency initiatives being launched during the pandemic.
You can watch the video directly here.
Thanks for watching!
Here are my thoughts on the “new” climate emergency initiatives being launched during the pandemic.
You can watch the video directly here.
Thanks for watching!
The following are a couple of examples of what’s going on in Romania right now.
Romania’s largest petroleum reserves (famous since WWII) were recently sold to OMV (Österreichischen Mineralölverwaltung Aktiengesellschaft).
Petrom, Romania’s state-owned petroleum company, now belongs to OMV, and every time I fill up my car at Petrom, the receipt says OMV Petrom. I talked to someone today who told me OMV sells roughly 4 Billion Euros of Romanian petroleum every year. And they’ve also got a contract to sell Romanian natural gas, of which they move roughly 2 Billion Euros’ worth every year.
That’s about 6 Billion Euros of sales from Romania alone (they have holdings in other countries and their total annual sales are around 23 Billion Euros per year).
Do you know how much Romania makes from these sales of its own natural reserves, per year, according to the contract drawn up by its own government? 100 Million Euros. That’s an incredibly paltry sum compared to the money OMV makes.
Could Romania have made more? Absolutely. Would OMV have paid more for the right to sell Romania’s oil and gas reserves? Absolutely. I think half and half would have been equitable. Did Romania even need to make a deal with OMV? No.
But when the political environment is such that you can pay a few million Euros to a few corrupt politicians and get the contract drafted with much more favorable terms, of course a corporation will take the easier way. Corporations are out to make money, not to watch out for the common good. Governments are supposed to watch out for the common good. In Romania, the government doesn’t do that.
Here’s another case.
You may have heard about a little region in Romania called Rosia Montana. It’s been famous since Roman times (two thousand years ago) for its gold reserves. It still is.
For several years, Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, a gold mining corporation with investors like George Soros, has been trying to get its claws on it. They’ve been promising all sorts of things to the Romanian government and to the local people in Rosia Montana, but they’ve met with unexpected and forceful grassroots resistance against the deal, and rightfully so.
When you look at the facts, the deal they want the Romanian government to sign is this: they get 96% of the finds and Romania gets 4% of the finds.
Someone’s getting thoroughly shafted and I bet it’s Romania itself. The Romanian government is ready to sign on the deal, because they’re thoroughly corrupt and select politicians stand to make millions, but lots of Romanians (and foreigners concerned with the environmental impact of the project) are saying no, so for now, the deal’s hotly debated.
Romania’s own president, Basescu, wants the deal to go through, because the gold found there will supposedly “replenish Romania’s gold reserves”. He’s either a moron or he stands to make a personal fortune if the deal goes through. If there’s “gold in them thar hills”, then for goodness’ sake, get some unemployed Romanian miners in those mines, take 100% (not 4%) of that gold and get it into the state vaults, pronto. What do you need Rosia Montana Gold Corporation for? Say you do need a foreign investor to help you mine the gold? Then make the revenue sharing more equitable! Again, half and half would be the right choice.
Naturally, the Romanian government would disagree, and TV pundits are talking the issue to death on all the news channels. Talk solves nothing. Ever since 1989, Romanian newspapers and independent TV and radio stations have been uncovering corruption after corruption in Romania’s political dealings, and oftentimes, they’ve given clearcut financial proof of the wrongdoings. Have any of the truly guilty gone to jail? No, some of their cronies went to jail, while the real bastards have gotten richer and re-elected. The judicial branch has never been able to convict and send to jail powerful Romanian politicians, in spite of all their corruption, theft of government money, manipulation of government contracts and… the list of crimes goes on and on.
On the other hand, and this is the saddest part, if these contracts with foreign corporations were equitable, do you think all that money would benefit the Romanian people? Do you think it would be used to rebuild Romania’s infrastructure and to spur innovation and small business growth? You’d be a fool to think so. After all, this is Romania, not Sweden, Norway, Iceland or New Zealand. Logic and rational thinking have no place here, nor does equitable behavior. All that extra money, all those gobs and gobs of extra money would likely line the pockets of the same bastards who are screwing the country right now.
I don’t know what’s to be done. Well, I do know, but my solution involves legal superpowers and weapons and I’m pretty sure it’s illegal in the EU and most of the countries in this world…
It’s been a couple of weeks or so since high school students in Romania had to take their graduation exams — the Bac, as it’s known over here. The whole thing was a huge controversy this year, because for the first time ever, there were strict rules in place to ensure no cheating occurred on the exams.
Not sure if you knew this, but there’s a lot of cheating in Romanian schools. It occurs on a massive scale.
It got this way in the past twenty years, as the school system got worse. Teachers were paid less, working hours got longer, the classrooms got bigger, and a lot of teachers stopped caring. That’s not to say they were paragons of teaching before that. I met my fair share of horrible persons in the teaching ranks before I left the country to live in the States. Now that I’m back, it seems they’ve multiplied.
Abroad, Romanian students are known as hard-working and studious — downright nerdy, brilliant at the sciences, etc. That (small) group is still around, but it’s gotten smaller. Many of the students with great grades get them because they cheat these days. They have it down to a science. Forget the little pieces of paper we might use to scribble down a few formulas when we were in school. These kids have cellphones with apps that store textbooks. Or they take photos of hard-to-remember pages with their cellphones, and zoom into those photos during tests. Or they text their buddies, naturally. In some classrooms where the teachers have stopped caring altogether, the students simply open their textbooks, lay them on the desks and copy away. In the vocational high schools, they don’t even bother with cheating anymore. They simply write the answers on the blackboard, to make sure they pass everyone.
Is it any wonder that the younger generations in Romania are so easy to manipulate, when they remain uneducated as they go through schools? A dumb population is what every despot wants, because they’re easiest to control. You just have to give them a cheap bread with one hand and point them to a scapegoat with the other, and they’ll obey. Is it any wonder then, that we have such a corrupt political class in charge of the country?
So for this round of graduation exams, the minister of education set a goal: no more cheating. They had proctors in every classroom, and they had video cameras. Anyone caught cheating would be disqualified and would be kicked out.
I think you can guess what the results were: deplorable. A LOT of kids didn’t pass, because they couldn’t cheat. A LOT were caught cheating, and were disqualified. The pass rate in Bucharest (the capital) was under 50% (somewhere around 43-44%). In some school districts, the pass rate was under 30%, and in some really problematic districts, no one passed. Now can you begin to realize the scale of the cheating that took place in previous years?
Naturally, there’s blame to be thrown on someone, and right now, parents and students and teachers and politicians are busy trying to see who’s to blame. I think the teachers are to blame.
Before I tell you why, let me just point out that I interview students from Romania for admission to Middlebury College (my alma mater back in the States). I’ve been an interviewer for years. When I lived in the States, I interviewed American kids. Now that I live in Romania, I’ve offered to interview Romanian kids. How do you think this cheating scandal has affected the reputation of Romanian kids abroad?
How can the folks back at Midd or Yale or Stanford know which Romanian kids applying to their schools cheated to get those grades, and which ones didn’t? I’m not clairvoyant, so I have no way of knowing myself. I’d love to be able to look at the face of a kid I’m interviewing, like Cal Lightman in Lie to Me, and know that they’re lying about not cheating, but I don’t have those abilities (yet?). So this is why I’m very glad to see a general crackdown on cheating in Romania, and I hope this crackdown translates into long-term changes in the education system to ensure no more cheating. That’s because when I look at a kid’s grades, I want to know they’re honest grades, not inflated through deception and through the theft of other kids’ hard work.
The teachers set the tone in their classrooms. They knew when cheating took place. No one can tell me teachers don’t know when you’re cheating. If they’re good teachers and they care about their students, they know. They can see it on your face right away.
But the teachers stopped caring, so the cheating got endemic. More students saw that it was easier to cheat than learn, and that high grades were within easy reach, so they started doing it too. And it’s the teachers’ fault. Instead of doing their jobs properly, and instilling a love of learning in their students, instead of encouraging them to learn and showing them how interesting the subject matter can be, they resorted to cheap tactics (tactics which should be made illegal) of forcing students to memorize paragraphs and pages from the textbooks and repeating them outloud (or writing them) during exams. What kind of a lazy, pompous bum do you have to be in order to force kids to do that instead of explaining the concepts to them?
As a child, I was beaten (slapped hard, my hands beaten with a ruler) by our grade school math teacher, who was having an affair with one of the other teachers. When rebuffed by his lover, would come to class piss-drunk and would beat the kids. He’d beat me, along with other kids, because we couldn’t remember math formulas when he screamed at us, or that we couldn’t do calculations fast enough.
Or what about the many vindictive teachers I’ve had, who if they had it in for you, for whatever reason, would use every opportunity to belittle me or the other students, and give us all low grades? I met just such a teacher recently and I was blown away by how much anger she had for people who didn’t share her view of things, and how far she’d go to blackball them. Can you imagine these people teaching children? What kind of an example are they for our kids? What do you think those kids will learn from them? Hate, anger, vindictiveness and methods of punishment? Or what about unquestioning submission to the classroom despot? Are those the things we want them to learn?
Have you heard of the teachers (and professors) that will give you low grades if you don’t quote their books when you write your papers? They’re such egotists that if you don’t pay homage to their books, you won’t pass their course. Never mind that many of them copy their books outright from foreign textbooks, stealing the intellectual property of others so they can embellish their own curriculum vitae and hang on to their posts or get promoted.
What about the filthy perverts who ask for sex in order to let you pass their courses? Yes, that happens as well. They caught one such pervert recently in a girl’s dorm room, partially undressed and ready to seal the deal — thankfully, the girl managed to get away, but how many girls to do you think submit to this sort of thing just so they can get their diploma?
All I have to do to get more horror stories like this is to go out and ask any grade school, high school or college student to share their own experience. I for one am amazed that we still have so many qualified students graduating from Romania’s schools — these are cogent, thoughtful people, who’ve managed to rise above all the crap that goes on in those places and decide to do something good with their lives. Kudos to them for sticking it out, because it was a tough journey!
My suggestion to the Romanian government is to get to work right now on reforming education in Romania and to eliminate all the bad teachers right away. The more they leave the inadequate specimens in the classrooms, the more they’ll infect the young generations’ minds.
Update: After sending the camera in for service to a Canon authorized repair facility, it turns out I took somewhere between 75,000 – 100,000 shots with my 5D when the shutter mechanism failed. Still, most of what I wrote below is appropriate commentary on the whole situation.
When DSLRs (and now HDSLRs) cost thousands of dollars, and the manufacturer makes a promise that the shutter in said DSLR is rated for 100,000 shots or 150,000 shots, I think it should no longer be a promise, but a guarantee, and the manufacturer ought to be responsible for the repair to a DSLR whose shutter failed before its rated number of shots.
Look at cars. Some cars cost little more than a top of the line DSLR, but cars have serious warranties. These days, some cars have 10-year warranties on everything. Historically speaking, even if most cars haven’t had good warranties on everything, they’ve had good warranties on the power train — on the basic stuff that makes them go.
On a DSLR, the shutter is part of the camera’s “powertrain”. Without it, the camera can’t take photographs, and a full-frame DSLR that can’t take photographs is a very expensive paperweight.
It’s high time we demanded that DSLR manufacturers come up with warranties for the more expensive DSLRs, where they’ll guarantee that the shutter and the motherboard (pretty much every part that takes photos and writes those photos to a card) will work for a certain amount of time.
If we don’t, we’ll likely run into the situation I’m in right now, where my Canon EOS 5D’s shutter started to fail at under 50,000 shots. Initially, photos taken at 1/6000 sec or higher (1/8000 sec) would come out black or almost black. Now, months later and at around 52,500 shots, even photos taken at 1/1000 sec are severely underexposed.
Have a look at three photos taken with the 5D. The first two were taken at 1/8000 sec shutter speed a couple of months ago, and the third was taken at 1/1000 sec shutter speed a few days ago.
It’s not right that the shutter has started to fail at half its projected life span of 100,000 shots. And what’s even more improper is Canon USA Support’s reply to me. They told me the shutter’s rated life is not a warranty, not even a promise, but an expectancy (an anticipation if you will).
What that means is they can advertise long shutter lives all they want, but they’re not accountable for actual, real-world results from its customers. It’s irresponsible, and it shouldn’t be allowed. When we pay thousands of dollars for a fancy DSLR, we as customers pay that money with certain expectations in mind. Those expectations entail (among others) a need for durability and reliability.
I propose that a set of benchmarks be set for the entire photography industry, where shutter life is one of the differentiating criteria. Processor and camera motherboard life should be another. Manufacturers would then have to offer warranties on these benchmark criteria. I propose 4 or 5-year warranties on the circuits, and on shutter life, the warranty should go as far as its stated life span. If it’s 100,000 shots, then by Noah, it should be 100,000 shots, end of story.
My mother’s mobile phone got stolen on Friday (12/11/09). She visited her bank, made a transaction at the counter, left her cellphone there by mistake, went out to the car, realized it was missing, came back to get it, but it was gone. In spite of asking everyone around for help, and even though the phone was bright red, nobody saw it or wanted to say they saw it.
It wasn’t the loss of the phone itself that troubled her. It was the text messages she had stored on the SIM card — a historical archive that went back to 2006 and contained information of sentimental value about her parents (my grandparents), who have since passed on. These were texts back from when they were still alive.
She didn’t know what to do, so she called her own number, in the hope she’d be able to reach someone. Finally, she did. A woman picked up at the other end. My mother pleaded with her to return the phone, but she hung up and never answered again. Then, my mom logged on the T-Mobile website and saw that illegal international calls had been made to Haiti from her cellphone. I took a couple of screenshots from her call log and posted them below. As you can see, the thief, a woman, wasted no time in taking advantage of the fact that my mother’s cellphone was enabled for international calls, and started calling her relatives right away, as soon as she stole the phone.
Then, my mother got another clue. The woman who had stolen her cellphone took a picture of her child, possibly in their yard. I took a screenshot of that photo from my mother’s T-Mobile account and posted it below.
I can’t get at a larger size of the phone because my mother asked T-Mobile to freeze her account. The T-Mobile website logs either of us out when we try to get to that photo in the web album, but thankfully it is there for the police to review, which brings me to the next step my mother took. She contacted the police and filed a report for her stolen cellphone. I hope the thief who took it gets all that’s coming to them.
What’s sad is the thief is a woman, and what’s more, she’s a mother. We know she’s likely from Haiti, or she wouldn’t be making calls to that country. I have to ask, what kind of life is she preparing her son for? He’ll likely grow up a thief, just like his mother. He’ll grow up thinking it’s okay to take things from other people, that it’s okay to abuse other people’s kindness and money, that it’s okay to ignore their pleas to his better nature, that it’s just fine to step over someone’s feelings. That’s the kind of a person he’s going to be, and it’s all thanks to his mother, who didn’t blink at the thought of stealing someone’s cellphone from a bank counter instead of letting them know they forgot it.
It’s very probable that the thief, the Haitian woman, was still inside the bank when my mother went back to ask if anyone had seen her phone, and can probably be identified from the security tapes. As I said before, I hope she gets all that’s coming to her.
Glad to see Berlusconi won’t have his way when it comes to the brazen immunity he granted himself a couple of years ago. Italy’s Constitutional Court threw out his immunity law as unconstitutional. This means he will now be subject to two ongoing trials and a probe into an alleged prostitution ring.
What can I say, Mr. Berlusconi… at some point all the stuff you’ve been doing has got to come back and bite you in the rear.
I’ve always thought and said psychics were fake, along with ghost stories. Sure, it makes life (and books) more interesting if a ghost pops up here and there, but unfortunately, when people die, they’re dead as doornails. They’re gone. Out for good. Goodbye. That’s why life is so precious. Every day must be spent carefully and cherished, because when our days are over, they’re over.
That’s why it’s great to see psychics exposed as the frauds they really are, as one BBC show did, recently. The host made up a fake story about some chocolate factory manager, printed it in a leaflet about the factory, and also put it up on the factory’s website. When the psychics were invited to the factory and asked to channel any ghosts that might be around, they all “somehow” picked up on the fictitious manager’s ghost. When they were told the ghost was fake, each did their best to cover up for their slimy behavior and slinked off camera to lick their wounds. Disgusting.
As for questions about what really happens in the afterlife, or if there is one at all, see item #26 on this page. That’s what I believe, and whether it makes sense to you or not, please note the explanation includes no ghost stories.
The US Congress recently passed the Cap and Trade Bill without reading through the over 1200-page document, which more than likely contained more pork than a Louisiana farmer’s pantry. It was a bill drafted by lobbyists and edited in closed door committees, paving the way for tons of very lucrative government contracts and taxes that will surely pad many insiders’ pockets for decades to come.
Now they’re getting ready to fast-track the House Health Care Bill, another over 1000-page document, introduced as H.R. 3200, which no one will likely read, except the lobbyists drafting it and the few congressmen whose larder needs refilling as the way for the bill is greased through the inner workings of our illustrious Congress.
What’s to be done about this? At the very least, Congress should bother to read the bills before they vote and sign them. Pretty simple, right?
That’s why the Sunlight Foundation came up with ReadtheBill.org, a website which proposes a simple rule: post all bills online for 72 hours before they are debated. This was introduced as H. Res. 554 — a change to the House resolutions — and is slowly making its way through the approval process thanks to people like you and me, who are bugging our representatives to vote for it. The 72 hour delay would give constituents a decent amount of time during which to read through the proposed bills and see if they need to act.
Let’s not forget President Obama promised his own 5-day delay on signing any new bills during his campaign, but has almost never respected that promise. So we’ve got a Congress and a President that don’t really bother to read all the bills they’re signing, and don’t even want to pretend like they’re doing it — at least not yet. It’s a grand example they’re setting for the rest of the world, isn’t it? They’re passing bills they haven’t read, and they’re telling us everything is on the up and up, and we have nothing to worry about, because they’re hard at work on fixing America. Whoopee!
Please tell your friends about ReadtheBill.org. Go there, sign the online petition, and bug your Representatives to pass the 72-hour rule.
In March 2008, musician Dave Carroll flew with United Airlines through Chicago, where a fellow passenger witnessed his $3,500 Taylor guitar being thrown into the hold of the aircraft by one of the UA employees. Upon arrival, Dave filed a complain with UA, asking them to reimburse him for the repair to his guitar, which came to the hefty sum of $1,500. For over a year, letters and emails and phone calls went back and forth, until UA, true to their lying form, denied responsibility for the damage and refused to pay for the repair. In return, Dave promised to release three music videos, to shame them publicly. The first, entitled “United Breaks Guitars“, is already out.
Kudos to Dave Carroll! I hope tons of people see this video and decide to do their flying with other, more customer-friendly airlines. UA deserves all that’s coming to it for the way it treats people.
I’ve seen companies do some pretty disgusting things in my time, and the move some of them are pulling lately definitely ranks right up there with some of the biggest stinkers.
In effect, they’re using the current weak economy/recession as an excuse to lay off employees and burden the existing ones with the extra work, while keeping them mum under the fear of losing their jobs. If this isn’t corporate exploitation of its workforce, I don’t know what is.
I’m going to give you three examples, each juicier than the other, but I’m sure you can come up with more if you’re in the US and you’re employed in a full time job.
I talked with an employee from a certain company lately, one which specializes in a niche market that has not been affected by the economic slowdown, nor does it look like it will be affected any time soon. I can’t disclose any identifying details, because the employee confided in me. What he told me was this: the president (and owner) of the company fired some employees while cutting year-end bonuses for the rest of the employees, using the recession as an excuse. The employees, the ones doing the hard work, have been handling a record amount of business for the past year, but the president cited a slump in incoming business. I was told the same president has been spending lavishly to expand his own mansion and buy extra cars and toys, during the same year when the supposed slump in business took place.
This example is more concrete than the previous one. In December, Adobe reported record revenues for the 4th quarter of 2008, and the sixth consecutive year of double-digit growth, yet they still laid off employees in November just the same. I’m not surprised though. I talked with a friend who is a long-time software developer, and he told me Adobe has another ugly habit: historically speaking, they have relied mostly on contractors, because it’s cheaper, and they’re easier to shed without bad press.
Let’s look at JPG Mag. It’s the darling of many amateur photographers, because it gave them the chance to publish their work when other magazines might turn them down. I never really liked it, and I’ll tell you why: I thought they were cheap.
Here was an easy way to get print-worthy photographs without paying a dime. Turns out you could get amateur shutterbugs happy and willing to give away their work simply by dangling the illusory promise of publishing their pics in your magazine. The incentive was fame, which is as fleeting as a fart and just as troublesome, if you’ll excuse my expression. Where’s the moolah? Last I checked, bills were still payable in money, not fame.
When they announced they were going under, I thought it fitting. Good riddance to bad rubbish. First they don’t pay the photographers, then they fire the founders, now they’re going under — okay by me. Unfortunately, the buzz generated by their announcement stirred the vanities of those with bigger wallets, and a bidding war began.
But wait, there’s a nugget of bitter truth to be found among all this fake glimmer and shine. Turns out they fired all their employees, and now the CEO trumpets the company’s earning potential in messages to the bidders. PDN Pulse called them out on this, and rightfully so. Sure, now the company has earning potential since everyone’s gone. Hire a skeleton staff, make them do double or triple the work, pay no money to the photographers, and you’ve got a hand-dandy business model fit for the 21st century.
So you see, it’s okay to use the economy as an excuse when it befits your bottom line. Apparently, it’s okay to lay off people, it doesn’t matter that they’ve got bills to pay, that they’ve put a lot of hard work and time into your company. You shouldn’t do what you can to protect them in a weak economy when it’s harder to get jobs.
None of that matters, right? Ethics are so passé. You just use whatever excuse you can to make sure your precious bottom line gets bigger and bigger. It’s all about GREED. You can never have enough money, and people are only a means to it, right?
Well, I think that’s wrong. I don’t care if you’re afraid that the recession will affect your company. I don’t care if you really want that shiny new toy and a couple of employees and their mortgages stand in your way of getting it. I don’t care if your stockholders will bitch. If greed and money are your only motivators when you run a business, and you’d gladly step over people to balance the spreadsheets — don’t give me any of that I’m so sorry and I feel your pain crap — then you’re a spineless, slimy, pus-covered slug, and you deserve to be squashed under a steel-toe boot.