“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I thought I knew what Clarke meant when I first saw rapid prototyping in California in the late nineties. Then I read this…

“At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Peter Schmitt, a PhD student, has been printing something that resembles the workings of a grandfather clock. It took him a few attempts to get right, but eventually he removed the plastic clock from a 3D printer, hung it on the wall and pulled down the counterweight. It started ticking.
“Engineers and designers have been using 3D printers for more than a decade, but mostly to make prototypes quickly and cheaply before they embark on the expensive business of tooling up a factory to produce the real thing. As 3D printers have become more capable and able to work with a broader range of materials, including production-grade plastics and metals, the machines are increasingly being used to make final products too. More than 20% of the output of 3D printers is now final products rather than prototypes, according to Terry Wohlers, who runs a research firm specialising in the field. He predicts that this will rise to 50% by 2020.
“Digital Forming… uses 3D design software to help consumers customise mass-produced products. For example, it is offering a service to mobile-phone companies in which subscribers can go online to change the shape, colour and other features of the case of their new phone.
“EOS, a German supplier of laser-sintering 3D printers, says they are already being used to make plastic and metal production parts by carmakers, aerospace firms and consumer-products companies. And by dentists: up to 450 dental crowns, each tailored for an individual patient, can be manufactured in one go in a day by a single machine, says EOS. Some craft producers of crowns would do well to manage a dozen a day. As an engineering exercise, EOS also printed the parts for a violin using a high-performance industrial polymer, had it assembled by a professional violin-maker and played by a concert violinist.
“Established techniques are unlikely to be swept away, but it is already clear that the factories of the future will have 3D printers working alongside milling machines, presses, foundries and plastic injection-moulding equipment, and taking on an increasing amount of the work done by those machines.


Yes, the U.S. has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the industrialized world. Maybe that’s because there are so many ways for American corporations to avoid paying any taxes at all.

“In an interview with In These Times, Carl Gibson, the founder of US Uncut, which is organizing some of today’s UK-inspired massive demonstrations against tax dodgers, explains that while ordinary Americans are being asked to sacrifice, major corporations continue to use the rigged tax code to avoid paying any federal taxes at all.

“[Gibson] explains, “I have one dollar in my wallet. That’s more than the combined income tax liability of GE, ExxonMobil, Citibank, and the Bank of America. That means somebody is gaming the system.”

“In the coming months, politicians across the country are going to tell Americans that the only way to stave off huge deficit and balance the budgets is by gutting programs for the poor, eviscerating support for the middle class, eliminating labor rights, and decimating the government’s ability to serve the public interest. This is a lie. The United States is the richest country in the history of the world, and income inequality is higher now than it has been at any time since the 1920′s, with the top “top 1 percentile of households [taking] home 23.5 percent of income in 2007.”

Economics / Politics

David Cay Johnston has exposed a simple truth that has eluded most American journalists – the state of Wisconsin doesn’t directly pay into public employee pension funds AT ALL. The pension contributions are a fixed percentage of each employees’ current salaries. The idea that employees need to ‘contribute more’ in order to help out the state budget crisis is a sadly manipulative three-card-monte game that won’t have any effect whatsoever on improving the state’s overall economy.

“The fact is that all of the money going into these plans belongs to the workers because it is part of the compensation of the state workers. The fact is that the state workers negotiate their total compensation, which they then divvy up between cash wages, paid vacations, health insurance and, yes, pensions. Since the Wisconsin government workers collectively bargained for their compensation, all of the compensation they have bargained for is part of their pay and thus only the workers contribute to the pension plan. This is an indisputable fact.”

“One correct way to describe this is that the governor “wants to further reduce the cash wages that state workers currently take home in their paychecks.” Most state workers already divert 5 percent of their cash wages to the pension plan, an official state website shows.
“Gov. Walker says that he wants them to “contribute more” via deductions from their paychecks. But since the workers already contribute 100 percent of the money going to the pension plan the real issue is changing the accounting for this to reduce cash wages.
“Once the state has settled on the compensation package for its workers then how the cash flows is merely accounting for how the costs are divvied up. If the workers got higher cash pay and diverted all of the pension contributions from their pay it would be the same amount compared to having the state pay directly into the pension funds.
“By falsely describing the situation the governor has sought to create the issue as one of the workers getting a favor. The Club for Growth, in broadcast ads, blatantly lies by saying “state workers haven’t had to sacrifice. They pay next to nothing for their pensions.”
“We expect ideological marketing organizations to shade the truth and even outright lie, as the Club for Growth has done. But journalists are supposed to check the facts, not adopt lies as truths.”

Movies – Battleship Potemkin

Far greater critical minds than mine have communicated the innovative glories of Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 silent masterpiece, ‘Battleship Potemkin.’ I’ve sampled a few here – David Thomsen in the Guardian UK and Roger Ebert.

A newly restored print of ‘Battleship Potemkin’ opens at the Music Box Theater on Friday, March 4th.

Politics / Socioculture

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). Word.

“The current Republican attack on women’s personal liberties, our access to reproductive health services and our right to lifesaving medical care is stunning in its scope, appalling in its indifference, and outrageous in its arrogance. Their proposals go way beyond anything in current law, significantly reducing access to family planning services and making abortion uninsurable. For years, anti-choice advocates succeeded in whittling away at reproductive freedoms, but the current three-pronged attack goes far beyond anything in existing law and is dangerous beyond measure.”

“Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest provider of family planning services, and for roughly 60 percent of their patients, they serve as primary care physicians. According to the 2008-2009 Annual Report for Planned Parenthood, 90 percent of the health care they provide is designed to prevent conception, reduce the incidence of sexually-transmitted diseases (STD) through testing and treatment, and to prevent cervical and other cancers through lifesaving screenings, including one million pap tests, 830,000 breast examinations and 4 million STD tests. The GOP’s anti-woman provisions would make it impossible for poor women to receive such services at providers such as Planned Parenthood, leaving many women with nowhere else to turn.
“Even as they complain about “the government’s intrusion into people’s lives”, the far-right forces of reaction are using their newfound power, not to grow the economy, but to invade even the most personal areas of women’s private lives, coming between her and her doctor, and dictating her decisions in private family matters.
“Not one of these Republican proposals would create a single job, decrease the deficit, expand the economy, increase our freedom or insure our liberty. These proposals are not merely anti-choice — they are also anti-health and anti-woman.”

Economics / Politics

Robert Reich. Word.

“The Republican message is bloated government is responsible for the lousy economy that most people continue to experience. Cut the bloat and jobs and wages will return.
“Nothing could be further from the truth, but for some reason Obama and the Democrats aren’t responding with the truth. Their response is: We agree but you’re going too far. Government employees should give up some more wages and benefits but don’t take away their bargaining rights. Private-sector unionized workers should make more concessions but don’t bust the unions. Non-defense discretionary spending should be cut but don’t cut so much.
“The truth that Obama and Democrats must tell is government spending has absolutely nothing to do with high unemployment, declining wages, falling home prices, and all the other horribles that continue to haunt most Americans.
“Indeed, too little spending will prolong the horribles for years more because there’s not enough demand in the economy without it.
“The truth is that while the proximate cause of America’s economic plunge was Wall Street’s excesses leading up to the crash of 2008, its underlying cause — and the reason the economy continues to be lousy for most Americans — is so much income and wealth have been going to the very top that the vast majority no longer has the purchasing power to lift the economy out of its doldrums.”