Thursday, May 5, 2011

MAVERICK CHRONICLES, 5/6/2011

This just in: Donald Trump is now demanding Osama Bin Laden’s long form death certificate. While we’re at it, let’s see some paperwork on the death of Trump’s campaign for president.

Finally, the bold absurdity of Sideshow Don has burst through the media bubble. As Trump fired another has-been on his “reality” show last Sunday, the real President ran a high-tech hit on the most wanted man in the world. That’s counter-programming.

It is also one way to get a second term as president, and pretty well buries the theory that Obama is a Muslim. Or a pacifist. He’s not just ready to talk trash. He puts contracts out on designated enemies – and follows the firefights in real-time. Apparently, he’s a stone cold executor-in-chief.

As CIA Director Leon Panetta acknowledged afterward, the mission was to kill bin Laden. No capture, no Board room, no trial. In this reality unless you actively surrender, you’re seriously fired. But hey, bin Laden could have been wearing an explosive vest. Match that, Meatloaf**.

It was also a big news week for Vermont. Passing universal health care, the first in the nation, and then, in a pop culture coup, prominent feature placement in Rolling Stone, in an issue with articles on Kevin Smith and Steven Tyler. Kind of a mixed message about health there.

The article, “The Fire Next Time,” is about the country’s creaky, cranky old nuclear reactors. Word is that they’re more dangerous than another Stones Tour.

But seriously, here are some questions raised by events this week: Why have the US and NATO intervened in Libya and not anywhere else? Does the killing of bin Laden really mean justice was done? And given how intrusive our online technology is becoming, should we be more worried?

This is a preview of Maverick Media’s Rebel News Round Up,* broadcast live at approximately 11:15 a.m. Friday on WOMM (105.9-FM/LP – The Radiator) in Burlington. This Week: Osama has left the building – justice or vengeance? Plus, Vermont’s big move on health care and Rolling Stone’s rap on Vermont Yankee, the danger of persuasion profiling, and why the West is only helping Libya’s rebels. Now the news…

VERMONT SCENE

Leading the Way on Health Care    In a historic vote on Thursday, April 28, the Vermont Legislature passed legislation for a first-in-the-nation universal health care system. The state Senate approved the plan for a single-payer system in a 21-9, party-line vote after four hours of debate. Conservatives tried unsuccessfully to muddy the victory with an amendment to deny health care to undocumented immigrants. But Vermont is about as far from Arizona as you can get.

Governor Peter Shumlin campaigned on a promise to create a state level single-payer system that would contain health care costs and guarantee universal access to medical. After the Senate vote, he celebrated the victory with an appearance on “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

Stuck in the Nuclear Age    Meanwhile, Rolling Stone reminded America that the Vermont Yankee nuke, a virtual twin of the Fukushima plant that went critical in Japan, got a 20-year license renewal even though “the reactor’s cooling tower had literally fallen down, and the plant had repeatedly leaked radioactive fluid.”

The article by Jeff Goodell says about 60 new nukes are in the works worldwide. But without taxpayer support, especially in the form of US legislation that limits the legal liability of plant operators if an accident does occur – otherwise known as the Price-Anderson Act of 1957 – no new reactor would ever be built in this country.

The longer a nuke keeps operating, however, the more profitable it can become. The NRC has helped by letting plant owners “uprate,” a euphemism for letting them run harder without safety improvements. Goodell writes: “Vermont Yankee, for example, was permitted to boost its output by 20 percent, eroding the reactor’s ability to cool itself in the event of an emergency.” These modifications put millions of people at a higher risk.

The article also discusses the biggest safety issue for old nukes, what to do with the waste. It was supposed to be moved to the Yucca Mountains in Nevada, but that proved unfeasible. Thus, tens of thousands of tons of irradiated fuel is being held in spent fuel pools across the country. “The release of just one-tenth of the radioactive material at the Vermont Yankee reactor,” write Goodell, “could kill thousands and render much of New England uninhabitable for centuries.”

Solutions? Get an outside agency to review safety and security at the older nukes. The NRC has proven itself to be compromised. Or else repeal the Price-Anderson Act and force the industry to take responsibility for the real risks. The nuclear renaissance will end immediately.

In the meantime, Vermont will work to stop Entergy in court, close Vermont Yankee in less than a year, and establish that States do have the right to protect their environment and their citizens from threats the federal government refuses to acknowledge.

PARANOIA DEPT.

Google is facing a $50 million lawsuit over location tracking. Should we be concerned about online privacy? Where is all this going?

The problem is called personalized profiling, an evolving aspect of online profiling of individual consumers. Obviously, when we search on the Internet for "used motorcycles" or gardening books, we’re not shocked when ads for those products appear at the edges of many websites we view. But retailers not only can personalize which products are shown, they can even personalize the way they are pitched.

Videographer James Valastro notes that in one experimental online bookstore, customers were encouraged to browse titles and mark a few for purchase as a way to test a new technique. By alternating the types of pitches — Appeals to Authority like “Malcolm Gladwell says you’ll like this,” Social Proofs like “All your friends on Facebook are buying this book”), and so on — marketers could track which kind of argument persuaded best for each person.

They also found that many people respond to the same type of argument in multiple domains. In other words, if you figure out how to sell someone books, you can use the same basic technique to sell them clothes. If that finding holds in future tests, your “persuasion profile” could someday have a major financial value: a surefire way to sell you on almost anything.

Persuasion profiling is a new concept and still being developed, but potentially offers quick, easily transferable, and targeted access to your personal psychological weak spots. Now how do you feel about Google tracking people?

Check back after the Friday broadcast for more news and commentary.

*Edited transcripts don’t include extemporaneous comments and last minute changes or additions.

** Meatloaf is one of the contestants hoping to be Trump’s protégé on his show, Celebrity Apprentice. This is as much authority as society has seen fit to give the deluded real estate brand name: he gets to fire Meatloaf.

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