Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kill the Messenger

The NPR story was about five young Muslim Americans who were detained in Pakistan that may have wanted to train in terrorist camps. "Making them the most recent Americans known to have been radicalized in the U.S. who then traveled abroad to act on their beliefs."

What is disturbing is not about the five becoming radicalized, but about how the blame is being placed on the messenger, that is, the Internet.

U.S. officials say the young men used the Internet — specifically the social networking site Facebook and videos on YouTube — to link up with extremist groups in Pakistan.

"Basically most of the noise on the Internet are the clarion calls to battle from the jihadis, the inspirational and motivational messages that they communicate," says Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. "And there has really been almost no concerted, systematic and strategic effort to counter those messages."

This case provides more evidence that radical Islam's Internet messages are effective.
My concern about all this is that we as a society will settle on the easy fix - ban thought and speech we do not agree with. We have a mechanism to do just that, if it is designed to incite violence it can be banned. But to do so misses the bigger question here. Why did these five make the transition? There are millions of other young people their age from the same background that are not motivated or persuaded to act out. What was ground zero here? It was not the words being spoken and heard, although words have the power to motivate, there must always be something else in play. The question is what?

One of the young men also left a video message for his parents. The head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad, says he saw the 11-minute video. "I walked away with the feeling this was disturbing that young people think this way and they're angry [and] this may lead them to do something wrong," he said.
OK, they were angry - yes - but so are a lot of other people and they don't carry it to that end point. Is it something akin to suicide clusters? Something similar is in play here that if it could be quantified might just be the thing to focus on, to keep the switch to act out turned off, to find an alternative release for that anger.

But no, we'll take the easy way and blame the internet, video games, rock n' roll music, comic books or...... What we will not do is try to figure out the why. there is a why, and its not the messenger, their sex, or their religion, its something else that is in play and can be influenced by them. Even if you removed every form of speech that could be considered hateful or a cry for action, the genesis for radical destructive behavior will still be there.

Isn't it better to just ban it - you know give it that ol' zero tolerance? I don't think so, I mean after all Cane and Able came about way before the internet didn't they?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mr. Pitts I Respectively Disagree...

Wow, not even a week went by........(my email today regarding his column on Sammy Sosa)


Mr. Pitts;

When you make the comment "you're not black" it does a disservice to people like me. I can be empathetic, reasonable, and understanding simply on the preponderance of the evidence.

We have two issues at play here, first is your assumption, which the email writer points out, that "Your column seemingly assumes he lightens his skin color out of shame and fails to recognize that he may simply be doing it out of vanity or his own sense of personal style." The second is how you see it, and that relates entirely to what we in public health call the greater good. Your point - and it is not lost to me because I am white - is that taken as a whole, these types of actions chip away at the self-image of blacks, especially children.

On the other hand, what one individual does or does not do may not always fall within the reasoning behind the actions of the whole. Why young black children see black as bad may have nothing to do with why Mr. Sosa wants lighter skin. Unless we can somehow get into his brain we can never know - and that is what the reader took issue with - you cannot paint everyone with the same reasoning brush, which is what you did.

Your fight is for the good of the whole, which like me, understands that there is an overall problem with self-image that needs to be addressed. Mr. Sosa and Mr. Jackson unfortunately have perpetuate this lighter is better attitude by their actions which may be from their dislike of being black or a result of using skin softeners. You take issue with this for reasons I can glean from your writing but alas can never fully know, not because I am white, but because I can never know with certanty what motivates you.

Why we behave in ways that unintentionally hurt others is a complex social issue beyond my understanding. But before you assume the motivation behind the action, you need to accept the fact that you just don't know. As Freud is quoted as saying "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Palin...a Rock Opera

My lame attempt at parody. With apologies to the Who’s Tommy, Weird Al, and the Capitol Steps. Real lyrics

Sung to the tune “Tommy’s Holiday Camp”

Uncle Hannity:
Good morning Tea Baggers!
I'm your Uncle Hannity
and I want you all in Palin’s political camp
We’re the movement with the difference
Never mind the hubris
When you come with Sarah
Its conservatives forever………..
Welcome!


Sung to the tune “We’re not gonna take it”

Sarah Palin:
Welcome to my Camp,
I guess you all know why we're here.
My name is Sarah
and I became a phenomenon this year

If you real Americans want to follow me,
We’ve got to play hardball.
So put on your lipstick...
....your dress from Neiman Marcus
You know where the tea bag goes!

Hey you Fags wanting to be married, so sorry!
Not on my watch.
Hey you listening to mainstream media!
You only need Fox!
Hey you un-American ACLU loving Mr. Liberal,
I’ve come to seal your fate.
‘Cause when I become the President,
I'll tear down that wall between church and state.

Democrats:
We're not gonna elect you,
Didn’t in 2008 and never will,
We're not gonna elect you,
Gonna work against you, gonna expose you,
let's get America to forget you better still.

Palin:
Now you can hear me,
‘cause I’m constantly being interviewed.
I get the chance to speak freely now,
but my voice is still so shrill.
You aint seen nothing yet,
And my brand of conservatism completes the scene.
Here comes Uncle Hannity to lead you to,
an ultra-right theocracy.

Democrats:
We're not gonna elect you.
Didn’t then and never will.
Don't want no Palin nonsense.
And as loud as we can yell.
We ain't gonna vote for you.
Not ever – no, never will.
We're not gonna make you our President.
We are embarrassed of you.
Let's get America to forget you better still.

Palin:
Buy my book.
Hear me speak.
I’ve gone rouge.
Don’t blame me.

Listening to me,
You get my viewpoints.
Gazing at me,
I’m still hotter than Hillary.
Voting for me,
Will get me elected.
I’ll stay a few years and then I’ll quit!

With my new book deal,
I will make millions.
With you,
I can become your leader.
With you,
I crave your accolades.
With you,
I can save my Party.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Call me...Mr. (white) Leonard Pits

There are very few people that I can truly relate to in terms of sharing my particular sensibilities. I see things very different then most of the folks I spend my day-to-day with.

I try to read as many different view points as I can. I force myself to listen to those who purposely , in my opinion, try to mislead. I am open to having my conventional wisdom challenged and am not afraid to change my mind. As my friend Marc puts it - "I go where the data takes me."

Without an exception, well maybe one time, the columnist Leonard Pitts has always articulated issues and events in a way that closely resembles my way of looking at it. Except he can write and defend it better than I can, oh yea, he has also won a Pulitzer Prize for doing it. But besides from all that we are almost twins, except he is black and I am white (Stevie Wonder song get out of my head!).

Why do I share a similar stream of consciousness with this guy? Is it because we are both the same age and are both from Southern California? But we grew up very different. I had a very stable family life, he did not. He was very smart and did well in school, I struggled. Then there is the black/white thing going on in how we lived, although it was not really that big of deal in California - at least for me.

So there is something in both our makeup that is unique to both of us. Something we share that transcends race, upbringing, geography, and culture. I am not sure exactly what it is, but I see it in his writing and I see it in mine. We seem to both be very pragmatic and empathetic to a fault. I find it comforting that there is at least one other soul out there that sees it like I see it.

When my blogging wins me a Pulitzer we will truly be equals. But for now I'll settle just for one reader. Crickets....Crickets.....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

That's a really big stretch

Researcher: Faint writing seen on Shroud of Turin
She asserts that the words include the name "(J)esu(s) Nazarene" — or Jesus of Nazareth — in Greek. That, she said, proves the text could not be of medieval origin because no Christian at the time, even a forger, would have mentioned Jesus without referring to his divinity. Failing to do so would risk being branded a heretic. "Even someone intent on forging a relic would have had all the reasons to place the signs of divinity on this object," Frale said Friday. "Had we found 'Christ' or the 'Son of God' we could have considered it a hoax, or a devotional inscription."
OK so the hypothesis is that a medieval forger would be incapable of completing this elaborate hoax because he would not risk being branded a heretic by leaving off the divinity.

In other words the fact that he produced a fake cloth in an effort to get people to believe that it was the burial cloth of Jesus and the image was that of Jesus would be nothing compared to mentioning Jesus without referring to his divinity.

Misleading people into believing the forged image is Jesus - no big deal.

Leaving off the divinity part when you forged the name of Jesus - Heretic!

Please...please do not call this woman a researcher.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fear of the word complacent

I was listening to Casey Kasem on Serius, The year - 1978. He was disusing the death of co-founder Terry Kath and how the band was forced to change because of it. The story was not about the death but about the band understanding that they had become complacent.

Now for me, words have taken on a whole new emphasis in my life. I cannot spell, I have very poor grammar (In fact I just misspelled it grammer), and I mispronounce words. All of this, especially when it is pointed out to you, takes a toll on one's confidence. But lately I have realized that those are just my faults, that's all they are and everyone has something they do worse then someone else. So I have begun a journey to write, learn, read, and try to better myself. So when I write this blog, I write it for me as well as anyone else that reads it that may be unaware of what the particular "word of the blog" is.

So on to today's theme - complacent:
Contented to a fault with oneself or one's actions.
Well what's wrong with that? But I always understood complacent to be kind of a bad thing to let happen. Then I find:
A feeling of contented self-satisfaction, especially when unaware of upcoming trouble.
Now that one fits the meaning better, at least for me. So why all this fuss over over this word? Well it comes down to having to face your fears. Now some folks fear death, or financial ruin, and others loss of standing, for me - I fear becoming complacent.

The reason for this is that I know that it can happen to anyone who lets down their guard. Complacency is the path of least resistance, the easiest road to follow. You become complacent because you do not challenge yourself. I fear it because it wants into my life and as much as I want to keep it at bay, external issues out of my control are helping to create a fertile media for it to take root.

Why be so afraid? Because complacency leads to stagnation, non-growth, lack of innovation. What makes it bad comes down to "especially when unaware of upcoming trouble." Upcoming trouble is your competition that has not become complacent. Complacency stifles creativity and causes one to become stale and boring. It's the one's that offer something new that capture the attention.

But complacency is also very cheap to maintain. No risk in failure because there is nothing new being developed. No added cost because its a fine oiled machine - don't fix what aint broke! Why change it when it is working - it's good enough.............

Complacency happens when you when you realize that you can put lipstick on a pig and they buy it. At some point I will be handed the lipstick, my fear is that I will pick it up and use it

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Muslim Sympathizer

As heard in College Station, Texas, 10:30ish Central Time on a christian radio station 89.9:

Caller: Isn't he (Obama) a Muslim?

Host: Well he is not an admitted Muslim, but he is a Muslim sympathizer.

So Obama sympathizes with Muslims....OK, and as our President this is somehow seen as bad because....???

So what does it mean to "sympathize"?
  1. to be in keeping, accord, or harmony
  2. to react or respond in sympathy
  3. to share in suffering or grief : commiserate ; also : to express such sympathy
  4. to be in sympathy intellectually
So what the christian radio host was saying is that the President of the United States should not participate in any of the above if it is directed towards a Muslim. There are an estimated 5-7 million Muslims in the United States, does he think Obama is not living up to his oath to defend the Constitution? Is unsympathetic behavior what God would instead condone?

I'm sorry, I just don't get it. How one behaves is what's in question here. Because some Muslims want a jihad is no different than some Christians wanting to kill abortion doctors. I should not paint everyone with the same brush. And the President has not only a moral but a constitutional obligation to do the same. As Thomas Jefferson stated:

"Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship......" (Letter to the Danbury Baptists, 1802).

To be critical of the President for being in "keeping, accord, or harmony" with all religions is not very American like. Come to think of it, it's not very Christ like either.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lying for God

“How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, his precepts! O! ‘Tis easier to keep holidays than commandments.” Benjamin Franklin

On my way to 89.1 the radio stops at 89.9, a christian radio station where two hosts are taking calls. I have searched for the name of the show and their names but can find noting. It was about 10:30ish on Friday Central Time.

I hear the tail end......

Caller: Isn't he (Obama) a Muslim?

Host: Well he is not an admitted Muslim, but he is a Muslim sympathizer.


Hmmmm, that doesn't sound very Christian like to me, I mean these guys are on a christian radio station professing how much Jesus loves us. But then I am struck with what just took place here. The host knowingly lied. Obama is a Christian, not a Muslim. Apparently the host doubts Obama's Christian faith, which only God really knows, so stating that he is "an admitted Muslim" is making either a direct lie or stating a belief that one knows what God knows.

But this is war, so it is OK to be dishonest, elusive, and misleading. "I did it for you God! I killed the truth to further your Glory, just like I killed those abortion doctors, just like I gave you the crusades, just like I massacred that wagon train in Mountain Meadows Utah, just like.......I did it all for you God!

The inability of those that proclaim themselves to be Christians to transcend above the simple-mindedness of basic human foibles, is disapointing. Don't they read their Bible? And those that lead them, those like the radio hosts that I'll bet told themselves that they were "called by God" to speak, have a responsibility to God and their audience to be truthful. Because if you lie about something then you can lie about anything.

So is what the host said lying? First what is a "Lie?" Websters defines it as:
  1. an assertion of something known or believed by the speaker to be untrue with intent to deceive
  2. is untrue or inaccurate statement that may or may not be believed true by the speaker
  3. something that misleads or deceives
  4. a charge of lying
Second, is telling a lie something that God would have an issue with?

Leviticus 19:11-12 "Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another"

Exodus 20:16 "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

Am I casting the first stone by pointing this out? No, just shining a light on another liar.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The crowd went crazy as Palin hit the stage....

On NPR this morning:

In the meantime, Palin is a hero to the GOP's "Tea Party" base — that portion of the party that is passionately and vociferously opposed to President Obama's policies. "She will play a tremendous role in the activist and the conservative movement," says conservative blogger Ed Morrissey. It's a constituency that views Palin "as someone very much like" them, he says. "Not somebody from the elite, not somebody from academia, but somebody who's a conservative mom — coming out of that same mold."

And in the Eagle:
(Texas Gov.) Perry, who is stoking populist fires with antiestablishment rhetoric, has dismissed the Cheney endorsement as the usual dealings of Washington insiders. He is also reminding supporters that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has cast her lot with him.
I have in my previous postings called Palin and "Empty Suit." I have not changed my mind. I should read her book, but she just turns me off, not just because of the hype that has now been built around her, but more so because she just does not come across to me as very smart. Which, come to think about it, is why she is well liked by the tea baggers - she is just like them, not very smart.

Now the nuttiness that passes itself off as conservatism is not what I am talking about. There are conservative ideas and liberal ideas that hold water on their own, but this new movement to define a "true conservative" is sophomoric and reflects poorly on the Republican party who has catered to it and is now afraid of offending it. . It is extremely difficult to be analytical and logical in one's thoughts while also espousing ultra-conservative views. Unless, of course, you don't believe them and only profess them to keep yourself "in."

In a nut shell, those "elite" and "academia" folk that are not like them, those are people with what we call brains. Smart people, intelligent people, learned people, circumspect, pragmatic. Smart people do not buy into hype. Not-so-smart people, do. So if she is "just like them" and "them" are folks who do not see themselves as smart, why the hell would we want her leading us or think she has anything of value to say?

The idea that the best person to run a country is an average Joe type is scary. I want brilliance, intelligence, knowledge in my leader, just like I want the smartest doctor, the smartest lawyer, the smartest investment advisor. Why would I want someone who is less than that?

So when Kay Bailey Hutchison - who is running against Perry - starts to believe that she too must cozy up close to one of the poster children for perfect conservatism, something is really going wrong with the Republican Party. Hutchenson is a smart lady - smart is OK, even in the Republican family. Stupid is as stupid does. Lets be smarter than a tea bagger, birther, or a Sarah Palin.


......Little Kay Bailey was lost for the price of a touch and a gash across her face! Oooooh.

(with apologies to the Who)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Its Called a Conjecture

Conjecture: a proposition which is presumed to be real, true, or genuine, mostly based on inconclusive grounds.

Two items struck me as a little bit misleading.

Police report says wrong-way driver a pot smoker
Hasan linked to 9/11 hijackers
So one would resonably conclude that:

  1. Pot was involved
  2. Hasan was involved with the 9/11 hijackers
Oh...but not so fast:

The report says Diane Schuler's husband told police his wife "smoked marijuana once in a while to relieve the stress of work and the kids."

The alleged Fort Hood shooter apparently attended the same Virginia mosque as two Sept. 11 hijackers in 2001, at a time when a radical imam preached there

What is not in the report is:

  1. Was Schuler under the influence of marijuana at the time of the accident?
  2. Did Hasan meet with the hijackers? Has anyone else who attended that mosque done anything similar?

Here's the problem. Smoking pot may or may not have anything to do with the accident. There is no evidence to report that it did. What one has done in the past has nothing to do with what one does now. These things are independent of one another. The probability may increase but the reality is that it either did or it did not contribute. Without evidence that it did, we have a paper guilty of conjecture.

The same holds true with the company one keeps or the places one attends. Didn't we learn anything from McCarthyism? The probability that his attendance at this mosque may have fueled his agression, but that was eight years ago. If the only "link" to 9/11 is attendance, then lets go after anyone that also attended that mosque at that time.

What is truth and what is hyperbole is lost when the media does not keep its self in check.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fun With Numbers

I heard on TV (and dang if I can recall what show) this guy making the case that Wal-Mart could pay their employees a better wage. The guy based this on the profit that Wal-Mart made. When the TV host posed this question to Wal-Mart, the answer was no, if they raised wages they would have to raise prices and the consumer would not go for that.

Mmmmm I thought, the Wal-Mart guy did not address his question, that is, with the profit Wal-Mart makes, why can't some of this go back to the employees?

Now before y'all start brandishing me a socialist-profit hating-share the wealth guy, here me out.

Profit - The positive gain from an investment or business operation after subtracting for all expenses. opposite of loss.

Net Income - In business, what remains after subtracting all the costs (namely, business, depreciation, interest, and taxes) from a company's revenues. Also called earnings or net profit.

So if I have my understanding correct, there is profit and then there is net income which is profit less all these other costs. So net income is truly what is left over after all expenses have been taken out.

Now lets see what will happen if Wal-Mart were to give every one of their 2.1 million employees a bonus of $1000.00 each. OMG! That totals to $2.1 Billion Dollars, there is no way they could afford to do that without raising prices for me the shopper.

What was their net income? $13.59 billion

Which means that if you took $2.1 billion away from this (15%) they would still have over $11 million to do with what they want.

So the way I look at is not spread the wealth but spread the benefit. They could improve 2.1 million peoples life or day and all it would cost is 15% of their net income.

There is something wrong with how we share success. Why so few reap the rewards is upsetting, but then when you realize that this net income often comes at a real price from those they use to obtain it, it makes you wonder why we support this model so unequivocally.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pecular to Hawaii

Things you will only see in Hawaii

Since they only have twelve letters in their alphabet everything sounds similar - or gets a really long name such as the last name of a city councilman "Kaho‘ohalahala" and a fish called "humuhumunukunuku apu a'a."

They really do say "Aloha" and "Mahola."

Its called a ook-a-lay-ee not a UKE-a-lay-ee.

Everyone's banana bread has been voted "best" by someone.

Coconut bikini tops....oh yea!

Pedestrian crossing signs were the stick-man is carrying a surfboard

Men and Woman bathroom figures wearing Hawaiian shirts

Note on tourist map that states "many tourists believe that the stacks of rocks hold a special significance. There is none."

And my favorite:

"Please do not play with the poi" (it is sold in plastic bags and is really squishy. Ask me how I know)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Maui Wowi

After 15 years the wife and I take a vacation together to celebrate our 25th. My wife wanted to get back to her roots having been born, or so she says, in Hawaii. I keep demanding that she prove it, I think she is really one of them native Californian's wanting to corrupt my way of living.

So we stayed at a really cool place, the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, on Maui. It suits our type of lifestyle to a tee. It is really low-key, with a great staff, friendly people, and other easy going folks. One thing it has is lots of space - green areas - not all packed in like sardines around a swimming pool like the hotels around it.


They were nice enough to upgrade our room to a bottom floor with a patio - which in our opinion - is the only way to do it.


It is also really close to the beach - maybe 200 yards, and also close to a nice place to snorkel.

So, we are saving our money to take the boys next time with a few modifications.
  1. October was a perfect time to go. No rain, cool breeze, low humidity.
  2. We would forgo the breakfast buffet in place of feeding ourselves with fruit and cereal purchased at a grocery store. Both the wife and I don't eat that much and we ended up overeating each morning.
  3. We would rent beach chairs and an umbrella from Snorkel Bob's. It's about $30 for the week which beats the price the hotel vendor charges you at the beach ($45 for a two person cabana chair per day or $20.00 for a beach chair per day.
  4. Snorkel Bob also rents snorkel gear by the week. That's what I used this time. $26.00 total as compared to $9.00 per day at the beach. Plus I can take it with me.
  5. A rental car was nice. We got ours through Travelocity. We did the road to Hana but not the volcano, used about 1.5 tanks of gas for the whole week. Without a car it will cost two people about $130 to get from the airport to the hotel.
  6. We would eat again at Flatbread Pizza in Paia - which is on the road to Hana at the begining.
  7. We would eat the coconut gelato from the Ono Gelato Company in Lahaina and in Paia.
  8. No one did a smoothie or shaved ice that was worth doing again. But the coconut gelato was worth going back for.
  9. We would take a snorkel trip to Molokini crater. Not sure who to go through - be wary of deals - they usually involve a timeshare sales pitch.
  10. We would probably do a Luau next time. There is one in Lahina near Aloha Mixed Plate and Canary Mall. Same warning - be aware of deals - they are associated with timeshare sales.
  11. Speaking of the Aloha Mixed Plate - that's on the list to go again. The Kaldi ribs were great. "Million dollar view meets paper plates."
OK, so now I really want to go back! I thought San Antonio was laid back...Maui takes it to a whole laid back level more.

Aloha!

Monday, October 5, 2009

35 ways to say "no"

I donate plasma, yea that kind of plasma – the same as poor college students, winos, and the homeless. I donate plasma just like I used to donate blood and then aphaeresis. I do it because it actually goes to help someone, unlike a cash donation that pays for a charities expenses – which may include a director that makes more than I do.

So part of the process involves having to answer 37 questions, two of which require a positive – yes – response. I answer the same questions every time, which is up to twice a week. It is highly unlikely that in the span of two days 95% of the questions would have a different response – still they must ask them.

So in a sing-song robotic cadence the questions start…Are you…..Have you…..until done. So I got to thinking about mixing it up a little – you know – see how many ways I can answer in the negative with a verbal response. So here is my list of 35 ways to reply to a question that requires a “no” response:

1. No
2. No!
3. Nooooooo
4. Nope
5. Nopperz
6. Nada
7. Nyet
8. Nyeah
9. Nah
10. No way
11. Not a chance
12. Zip
13. Zippo
14. Zilch
15. Hell no!
16. nein
17. Iie (eee-yeh)
18. Uh-uh
19. Nuh-uh
20. I think not
21. Never
22. Not in this life
23. Not hardly
24. Negative
25. Negetory there
26. Nosireebob!
27. Nay
28. Nix
29. No sir
30. Absolutely not
31. 10-74
32. Zero
33. Nary
34. Certainly not!
35. You got to be kidding me

Number 35 is often used by first time donor heterosexual men when asked “have you ever had sex with a man, even once, since 1977?” Number 15 is the common response by red necks to the same question.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What we have here.....is a failure....to comunicate!

Warning! Boring regulatory discussion below.

Whoa pardner! Where does thou get thy information? First off, a disclaimer: I have no dog in this hunt. What I care about is sound conclusions based on actual – and sound – information. Second, I am a pragmatist – I look at all angles to come to the best course of action. This does not make me pro or con and I hope it does not lead to any bias on my part.
Cement maker TXI withdraws request to burn tires in Midlothian
Two newspaper articles on this. Dallasnews.com and Star-Telegram.com. My interest is on how the public looks at an issue involving risk and exposure. Poorly is my conclusion, but it is not necessarily their fault. We - those of us who understand the situation - do a poor job of describing what is taking place. Another reason is that you can find a scientist to agree or disagree with any consensus (think cigarettes and global warming) – if you can’t trust scientists then who can you trust when it comes to data? And, to top it off, business has done a terrible job of consistently being good stewards of the air, water and land that we require for living. So there are a lot of balls in play here shaping the attitude of the people who, like it or not, make the decision of what takes place in their neck or the woods (NIMBY or “not in my backyard”).

So you take a confused public and you take an information source (news) that pulls from the same ignorant or misinformed or biased populace and what do you get? Rehashing of incorrect information. One reason for this is that newspapers and news shows rely on a limited source for what they report. One guy reports it and everyone picks up on it. The “fact” checking was supposed to be done before it went out on the wire. So the reason we have poorly informed and clueless citizens when it comes to complex issues such as risk and exposure, rests not just on the propaganda “no harm here” purveyors or the NIMBY folks who want a risk free world, but on news organizations that do not make sure their information is correct BEFORE they send it out.

Case in point:
The plants produce 6 million tons of cement a year. According to the most recent EPA statistics, the plants in 2007 emitted about 300 tons of sulfuric acid, nearly 20 tons of benzene, and smaller amounts of mercury, chromium, manganese and other chemicals.
The statistics came from where? The TRI report? That really is the only place one would get this information. So I looked up the TRI report for TXI in Midlothian, Texas. I even went to an EPA site that consolidates the information. (Note 2007 is the most recent data available). [Note: the quote states "plants" so this information may have been combined for all TXI or all cement kilns]


Where did the amount of “20 tons of benzene” come from? And, 522,118 pounds of sulfuric acid equals 261 tons.

Now I don’t fancy myself an expert on TRI Form R reporting, but my read of the information TXI reported is this:

  • The total amount (in pounds) of the sulfuric acid released to air, water, land, and underground injection wells during 2007 Through 5.2 Point source air emissions occur through confined air streams such as stacks, vents, ducts, or pipes was 522118 pounds.
  • The “Annual quantities of the chemical associated with all source reduction and recycling activities” reports 522118 pounds as “Total other on-site disposal or other releases.”
So what this data states is: Of the 522,118 pounds of sulfuric acid emitted, 522,118 pounds of sulfuric acid were “released on-site……. to mediums [which] include fugitive and stack air emissions, discharges to water bodies, underground injection to class II-V wells, land treatment/application farming, RCRA subtitle C surface impoundments, Other surface Impoundments and Other disposals. This total does not include on-site releases or disposal due to catastrophic events.”

Now why the EPA puts this data in a section called “source reduction and recycling activities” is beyond me, especially when TXI reports “0” source reduction and none of the “mediums” described are recycling activities. So the question remains - what is taking place at TXI with this sulfuric acid? Well what we know is this; 522,118 pounds of sulfuric acid is emitted “through confined air streams” and is sent as a waste stream for mechanical separation, scrubbing, and incineration (thermal destruction other than use as a fuel).

Now logic tells me to stop here before I start speculating all over the place. Logic also tells me that the reporter should have asked the question “how much is actually released into the air?” All the TRI does is track what is released, it does not track what is actually available for human health exposure or actual environmental harm. It’s all about the risk paradigm, if there is no exposure there is no risk, regardless of how much is emitted on a TRI report.

Is TXI’s operation contributing to health or environmental problems within the community? I don’t know. What I do know is that the article regarding their operation was flawed which would normally lead some to say “yes.” What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Proof of Guilt? Not on My Watch!

So in Texas, apparently, the law says I can shoot someone on my property if they are stealing from me – or if I feel threatened. This, I did not know and am kicking myself for the potential risk I have put my family in - that is- by allowing strangers to enter willy-nilly onto my property.

Now the risk if a stranger causing me harm is small those Lilly-liver liberals state, but all it takes is one bad apple to cause me harm. So it is better to be proactive than retroactive in my book, so I will shoot first and ask questions after.

“But what if you are wrong?” the cowardly liberals will squeal. Well. what if I am right? There is always a ying and yang, a positive and a negative, a good person and a bad. To not act would send a message to the bad guys that it is OK to break the law, to cause harm, to take from me those things that I earned through my own toil.

Now this doesn’t mean I am going to shoot Girl Scouts and tricker-treaters when they come to the door. No I am a little more qualitative in my formation of guilt than that. If they look like they might be bad, if me and my friends would come to the same conclusion as to our belief in their guilt, then I will plug them.

Yea, yea, yea, they could be innocent – could – that is, well think of all the guilty ones that get away with it. Besides, most of my pals feel the same way with this course of action, so what’s the big deal if a few accidentally get taken out? As long as there is a law that gives me the right to do it then by golly I will carry it out. Better to err on my side then anyone else’s.

So I hear tell that my method for ascertaining guilt my come into question by a group that obviously doubts my right to pass judgment and act on it. Good thing I have the power to nip that little foray into the truth in the bud. I have a lot of friends that think like me, all I need to get is them to “look” into it, or, better yet, to ignore it completely!

I like things the way they are, no need to go messing around in this business of protecting the innocent and proper justice crap like that. I have nothing to hide or be ashamed of about my course of action. I believe they were guilty so I shot them. Don’t you dare go looking to show me wrong. Oh, don’t show up on my doorstep either, unless you are with me, you look awfully like a bad guy.

Well got to go, me and Governor Perry are heading down to the boarder to help the Feds out.

Lock and load!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

There IS a Difference

Sometimes you just have to wonder why you were shown something. Was it God’s divine intervention, chance, or of your own doing?

I do not talk about my work in this Blog. This is done purposely so as to avoid upsetting those that are in control of my livelihood. Plus, it is a little bit unfair to criticize, even if one is right, without the ability for a rebuttal, which the entity I work for would be unable to do.

So let me talk in very general terms and lead with: I have a philosophical difference of opinion with the new guy they have put in charge, which we discussed yesterday. So we will leave it at that. Plus that is not the point of this blog today, it is about the first sentence, which needed explanation by way of this little blurb to allow it to make sense.

I do not watch TV on a regular basis. Most of the time it is with the wife as a form of “quality time” since that is something she likes to do. But last night, while eating a late dinner I turned the TV on and surfed till I came upon “King of the Hill” (it is strange that my favorite TV shows are mostly animated ones). Now remember the philosophical difference of opinion I spoke about? Ok, let me also add that I am an instructor and this should make sense.

Peggy Hill is substitute teaching and is standing at the chalkboard with a math book going over their homework. She copies the problem from the book to the board – a circle with “D=3” inside and a square with “3” inside – and asks the class “which is bigger?” Silence. She then opens the math book to the answer page and says, “the answer is D” at which time there is a pause, and then one of the kids asks “why?” Poor Peggy has no idea and embarrassingly solders on to the next question as the students lose respect for her as she loses credibility.

Anybody can be a substitute teacher but not everyone can teach. Any instructor, educator, or teacher worth his or her salt knows that you will never completely master your subject. There will always be something you understood incorrectly, something new you have not heard about, some little esoteric bit of trivia that escaped your hearing. Still you face the audience with the knowledge that you do understand your topic and, when you are at the top of your game, can put the information in context and answer or lead a discussion as to the question of “why?

There is a difference between a cook and a chef, between an artist and person who can paint, between a musician and person who can play a musical instrument. There is a difference between a person standing up in front of a class following an instructor guide and an instructor who knows the topic and can help students understand the “why.”

And that is all I have to say about this.

Thank you Peggy and Mike Judge, I needed to see that last night.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kind of - Sort of

How does one describe themselves or another person in a one sentence summary? The wife and I have always described out youngest son as “not suffering fools gladly” which describes and fits him to a tee. I am a little bit more forgiving of stupidity in action and thoughts then he is. The writer John Elson was described in Time as:
He had eclectic interests and a skepticism that had no patience for cant or showboating.
OK, that kind of – sort of – fits me, only a little more gruff then how I think of myself, plus I don’t know what the word “cant” means so that leaves me a bit unsure.

Now my wife, who knows (and reminds me) how poor my early education was, probably can give me the definition plus its proper use as well as its antonym (yea I know what that means – just did not know how to spell it). But for me, I had to look it up only to find there are a number of possibilities that could describe the behavior in question. So I settled on four:
  1. An affected, singsong mode of speaking.
  2. The idioms and peculiarities of speech in any sect, class, or occupation.
  3. The use of religious phraseology without understanding or sincerity; empty, solemn speech, implying what is not felt; hypocrisy.
  4. Vulgar jargon; slang; the secret language spoken by gypsies, thieves, tramps, or beggars.
Well because he wrote the Time article “Is God Dead” I am going to settle on the third one, since I seriously doubt he had much encounters with gypsies, tramps and thieves other than from Cher. So now that I know what “cant” means, I can really see if that fits me as well, and my answer is yes, yes it does, kind of - sort of.

I had a turn-around in my thinking not so long ago when I started asking myself the “why” behind the speech or action encountered. There is always a “why”, and if it what is being said is not done out of purity of thought, nobility, pursuit of a higher understanding, caring, or is not factual, then I have little patience for it.

I do not believe, as does Bill Maher, that people are stupid. I believe that they are manipulated into believing certain things as fact because they do not ask the “why” behind it. Stupid people, therefore, are those that have been shown the why or given credible information and still adhere to their old beliefs. Creationists can fall into this category, not because they believe God created life but because they refuse to accept how it came about.

I don’t know how I will have my persona summed up one day. Stupid people will call me a liberal socialist bleeding heart religion hater simply because I do not espouse their simpleminded take on what is good and virtuous and I blog about it. Am I any of those things? Well kind of –sort of – but not really. I am really just a person trying to understand my world and the other people who live in it with me. For me, at this point 50 years into the game, all I can say about myself is that I can’t accept things without knowledge of the “why.”

So why spend time writing this silly blog that no one reads? Well, why not!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Perfectly Good

I saw a great quote in Time from one of their long time writers, John Elson, who recently passed away:
Never let the perfect get in the way of the perfectly good

Wow. Wish I had heard that a while ago, adopted it and made it my own. I make my living now standing in front of environmental newcomers and professionals like myself, trying to explain the in’s and out’s, do’s and don’ts, of environmental regulation. I am what you call a creative type - always looking for a better way to convey an idea - and when representing not just myself, but my employer and the school it is associated with, I am pretty damn serious about the product I and my program offer. In this arena, you can see, perfection is what is expected.

It is difficult for folks like me to accept “perfectly good” when you know your performance, the materials, the venue, the conditions, or the timing, are not going to be perfect. I know what perfect is, and although I have never got there, I know when it is less than what it was the time before. The idea of “perfectly good” just sounds like a cop out, “it’s good enough for government work” which then leads to “no one will know the difference” which leads to mediocrity.

But Mr. Elson, I believe, understood this, understands guys like me, and understands the reality in play. At some point we have to deliver, we have to put the product out there, and if we let perfection (which can never be obtained) get in the way of this, then we have produced nothing. There is a happy median between the two.

So how does one keep traveling on the road to Nirvana when you know that no such place exists? For me it has been to set the lowest bar at the level where I am not embarrassed for myself or for those I represent. What I have to continually focus on is never to believe I have done my very best when I have not and to not beat myself up over producing only a "perfectly good" product. Which reminds another great little bit of advice from the Serenity prayer.
...….and the wisdom to know the difference.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Questions for Cal Thomas

OK, so let me sort this out. Obama states the proposed health plan will not cover illegal immigrants. This is a true statement. However, because illegal immigrants will still be able to receive emergency treatment at taxpayer expenses, Joe Wilson and his friends contend he lies.

Now I just wrote about that silly Jesus stuff about neighbors and Samaritans, so y’all know my take on this topic, but I am still perplexed at the cowardness of conservatives like Cal Thomas who dance around their true feelings on a particular topic. Now I know, I know, Mr. Thomas will state that’s not what he was implying, that he was only defending Joe Wilson’s use of the word liar. And therein lays the cowardness.

It can be left with no doubt that a certain percentage of Americans do not want illegal immigrants covered. Do you, Mr. Thomas share this view?

It is apparent that some Americans believe that continuing to allow emergency treatment to illegal immigrants is the same as covering them under Obama’s health plan. Do you, Mr. Thomas, share this view?

Now I am going to be bold here and speak for him (I just emailed him these questions and will change his reponse if he responds bak), I will say that his answer to both is “yes.”

So here is the conundrum for Mr. Thomas and his ilk…..

There are about 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. Regardless of how we feel about this - the why or how come - none of that detracts from the fact - there are 11 million here now. Of this 11 million some are children, let’s say 10%, or 1.1 million. It has been estimated (see note) that 50/100,000 children live with a life-threatening illness, so, about 550 of these illegal immigrants we could reasonably assume would require health care to save their lives.

Now the argument of the compassionate conservative will most likely be “go back to your own country so you child can receive care.” OK, fair enough. But what will be done for these children while they wait to return and/or if their parents do not choose to return? And what about those involved in an accident or striken with disease? What will be done for them if they are not covered by the health plan (as President Obama states) or they no longer receive emergency care (as Mr. Thomas would like to see)?

At this point, there are only two possible responses that can be rendered, or you can take the cowards way out and remain mute. So Mr. Thomas:

Do you deny care?

Or…

Do you provide care?

If you chose 1, then how will this be paid? Someone will get stuck with the bill, so who do you propose that someone be? I would really be interested in one conservative pundit finally mustering the courage to say what they all really feel, that is, that they value possessions over human life.



Note: Goldman, A. Care of the dying Child. Oxford University Press, 1999

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fix Fenders not People!

Interesting:
Matt Friedeman Show – 10. PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS President Obama has repeatedly said that “no insurance company will be allowed to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition.” That sounds wonderful until you apply common sense, which is in short supply in Washington. What if we made a law that allowed you to buy car insurance after you got into an accident and that required the insurance company to pay for the damage? Wouldn’t many people just wait for an accident before buying insurance? Why wouldn’t many Americans wait until they were sick to buy health insurance?
Amanda Terresi of Liberty on the Rocks (which I wrote about last week)
The idea is that it is health insurance. The concept of insurance is that you get it before you become sick or before something happens to you. It is equivalent to not having any car insurance, hitting a tree, and calling Geico and saying you want to sign up.
OK, so same playbook, different voice. Both arguments against allowing pre-existing illness to be covered are based on these illnesses driving up the costs for everyone. OK, that is a fact, but should not be a concern. The idea behind health care reform is to have everyone covered. The viewpoint expressed by this little “c” christain and liberty only libertarian is that coverage should be denied for anyone that would drive up the cost for them.

So my question to these two individuals and anyone who shares their view, is this. If we do not include them, how will they receive care? This attitude of “well it sucks to be you” is not one that I find flattering, especially with all the horn tooting and drum banging about how much of a Christian nation we are. We have put our heads in the sand and ignored the elephant in the room for too long. Why? Because if it does not directly affect me, I can ignore it.

It is true, that no one dies in the gutter, so why all the fuss to change it? Because the way care is delivered is after the fact (people wait too long) or it is through emergency room which are mandated to provide care and either close or pass on the cost to the state and to us with health insurance. My point is – we already pay now for those not insured.

OK, my views are a bit biased because I am a public health graduate. I have bought into the idea that a healthy society is a more productive society and is better for my health and family overall. But health care is a business and those that now control it do not want to see any change in what is a pretty lucrative for them. In the mean time, lack of universal care causes treatable illnesses to go unchecked, decreases entrepreneurship, forces families into bankruptcy, or forces one to forgo care to provide for other members of the family.

Our current system sucks. Stop fighting it all out and require that it cover all (everyone in – everyone pays), is not dependent on an employer or having a job, and meets a level of care agreed upon by those in the know (based on science – not marketing or hype). Other countries do it and do it well. Why we don’t is based mainly on our greed, the “why should I give up and/or pay for those that have not secured it for themselves?” Which is then supported by the attitude of “It sucks to be you?”

Monday, September 14, 2009

But words will never hurt me?

I have concluded (way late in life) that my wife is right and that people are stupid. Now when you say this, it includes both her and I, so I guess it should really be stated that people will often believe something to be true based on perception rather than fact. In this case, words have power to sway and entrench. So lets do away with two of them in the health care debate.
Phrase 1: keep the insurance companies honest.
When President Obama said recently that it will give Americans “a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep the insurance companies honest.” he unfortunately concluded that these companies are not being honest now or will become dishonest in the future.

Insurance companies are not the bad guys in this fight. They are a business, and as such, put the interests of their shareholders primary over everyone and everything else. This is how business works in the USA. Unless there is a driving force to "not be evil" businesses will always behave in a way that benefits them. This has nothing to do with honesty, it is the nature of the beast and why, in my opinion, government is a necessary player in a free market.

Business is a lot like the Botulinum toxin - both a remedy and a deadly poison, all at the same time. To say that the toxin is bad because it can and will kill, is to ignore the good that comes with it. In the hands of a skilled physician (government) the toxin is free to do do the work it can do (capitalism) and provide the benefits wanted by the individual (market). Those that participate in the health insurance industry are no more dishonest in their labor than the physician is an administer of poison.
Phrase 2: socialized health care system.
When Chet Edwards was asked "Have you decided how you will vote on HR 3200?" his response of "I will not vote for any bill I believe would result in a Canadian–style, socialized health care system." fed into the notion that government involvement is socialism or leads to socialism. Government involvement is, and should, be kept in check by a strong healthy free market. Asking government to step in, make laws, provide services is no more an example of socialism then Google is an example of a monopoly.

When used willy-nilly or purposely, words have power. These two phrases must be stopped dead in their tracks.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jesus and his stupid parables

All this fuss about providing health care to illegal - or undocumented - immigrants got me thinking about a situation that could arise based on a story I once heard.
An illegal immigrant man was traveling on a trip from San Antonio to Austin when he was attacked by a gang of anti-immigration thugs. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
So as Obama boasted in his recent speech to Congress "The reforms I am proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally“to the catcall of “you lie!” I got to wondering about what course one would take if they came across the man in the situation described above. I could only come up with three possible scenarios (excluding take out your concealed weapon and put him out of his misery). Now if one was to come across this man would you:
A. Cross to the other side of the road and pass him by hoping someone else will take care of him.

B. Look at him lying there and pass him by telling yourself "he should not have been here in the first place (or "it sucks to be you")."

C. Feel compassion for him, sooth his wounds, and take him to a hospital, where you say "take care of this man. I’ll pay you what it costs.
If I recall, the story I based this on had a kind of Mr. Rogers take to it, something about "who is my neighbor" and I think the proper answer should be "C" or at least that's what that silly ol' Jesus fellow thought made a neighbor (Luke, chapter 10, verses 25-37).

So what does caring for someone when they need help have to do with anything? Could this have any relevance to the health care debate? Does Jesus think we owe our brothers and sisters health care, care only when they are beat up, or no care at all? Well at the end of this silly “Good Samaritan” story Jesus goes on to conclude that not only is “C”the correct answer but to:
“.. now go and do the same."
If not through the government than by whom? Jesus - a liberal, socialist, big-government, take away your property, kind of guy!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Scoring Points with Jesus

I was going to write a positive blog, really, I was. I went to find the story on our newspaper’s website, and gosh darn it, there was a response to it that begs for a comment. It’s too long to post here, but the article the comment can be found here. My response to Mr. Pampell is as follows:

This outrage Mr. Pampell feels has probably more to do with the pain he is experiencing as his greed beats into submission what is left of his humanity then the improper use of one of Jesus’ teachings by Pastor Idom.

If the stories and parables in the bible, especially in the new testament, are not to be used in our daily lives to better ourselves and thus bring us closer to God, then what possible reason is there for reading the bible or going to church? Apparently to some, when Jesus’ words run contrary to what they want then they either shoot the messenger or twist them to bring them in line. Pastor Idom used this story as a means of testing the validity of what we was thinking with how he should be thinking. When he was honest with himself, he concluded that his opposition was not in line with how he thinks God would expect him to behave.

The idea that God’s gifts to Mr. Pampell and his like - in the form of property - are being stolen to pay for health care shows exactly how high material possessions are placed in his obligation to his fellow man. Apparently all we need to do is pray harder for those that are not insured, and trust in our churches to come to the rescue. News flash, if “philanthropy, compassion, and consideration” were in abundant supply we would not be in this predicament. The fact that one can “walk into any emergency room in need of medical care, and you shall receive it, regardless of your ability to pay” is not a health care system. Who does Mr. Pampell think pays for this service? God?

It comes down to this. We have a system that does not provide equal health care to all. We have a health care system that will cause some people to go without, wait until it is too late, or cause financial ruin. So the question becomes do I have an obligation to them? And, if you include the Jesus element, are these not my neighbor he speaks about in the Good Samaritan parable? Its not robbing you to ask you to contribute to the same system you will access and use.

I, like Pastor Idom, believe I have an obligation to care for my fellow man. We are not talking about giving them access to power, or a bridge, or art, or a road. We are talking about health care for all – before you need it and when you need it, access that is not encumbered by fear of hurting ones family because of the cost. Whether the church will pay for it through my tithe, I pay for it out of philanthropy, or I pay for it in the form of a tax, one way or another all my fellow brothers and sisters must have the same care necessary to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

And liberty for all, unless you have a pre-exsisting illness

I was going to take a different approach this month and write about positive people or people that lead an honest and humanistic life. But, nooooooooo, I gotta hear a comment that just begs for a response.

Amanda Terresi of Liberty on the Rocks, a libertarian social group, was interviewed regarding Obama’s health care speech last night on NPRs Morning Addition "Groups React To Obama's Health Care Speech"
The idea is that it is health insurance. The concept of insurance is that you get it before you become sick or before something happens to you. It is equivalent to not having any car insurance, hitting a tree, and calling Geico and saying you want to sign up.
Lady, you are an idiot.

To deny those with pre-existing illness the opportunity to receive care because they are asking to get into it late in the game shows a real lack of sensitivity let alone an ignorance of how insurance is supposed to work.

Pre-existing illness is not the equivalent of how car insurance works. I am supposed to have car insurance, and if I am denied, it becomes nothing more than an inconvenience or I can play the odds and go without. But if I have an illness and am denied coverage, my options are to be rich enough to take care of it myself, poor enough to have the government pay for it, find a generous benefactor, go without, or go bankrupt.

Our present system offers very little security to those that are dependent on the whims and humanity of their employer and health insurance provider. If I hit a tree without insurance I end up with a messed up car, but if I get a heart attack without insurance, my care will be paid for by someone – you in the form of higher premiums or by the government in the form of taxes. That is the bottom line. Or, I suppose you can say “it sucks being you” and just let me die.

At the beginning, the payouts will be greater than the take. After a while, it will balance out as the “healthy” pay more in then the sick. That is how insurance is supposed to work. I pay into a car insurance pot that I have never used in 30 years. I do this to protect myself in case I need it. All that money given is used to pay for others that because of bad luck, stupidity, or an act of God needed to use it.

We need a health insurance program that everyone pays into, that is guaranteed to provide the necessary health care one needs, and is affordable. This is doable, but as long as the Amanda’s of the world want to think about only themselves, we will continue to have piss-poor health and unnecessary bankruptcies.

You do not preserve liberty by denying life or the pursuit of happiness to those unfortunate enough to be sick. There is no choice but to include everyone into the fold. To do anything less is to say their life is not worth the cost. And that my good Amanda is unacceptable in the America I want to live in.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

It is what it is or is it?

Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele on NPR's Morning Edition
You have Medicare. You have Amtrak. You have the Post Office - all these government-run agencies that try to inject themselves into private markets typically don't do too well. My only point is that, okay, Medicare is what it is. It's not going anywhere. So let's focus on fixing it so that we don't every three, five, 10 years have discussions about bankruptcy and running out of money.
There is no argument with his last point. However, his first point must be addressed.

I am perplexed at the comments that come from the right. They are either purposely designed to perpetuate an idea- to distrust government's abilities in order to reduce it's standing - or they actually believe their comments to be true. I am beginning to think that the right has pushed aside intellectuals and instead welcomed in a leadership that believes in an idea but without an understanding of what is actually taking place.

So for the benefit of Mr. Steele and all those that think this way.

Private corporations have a mandate to serve their shareholders. Government corporations (medicare, Amtrak, the Post Office) have a mandate to serve the people. You cannot serve two masters. This is a truth and I welcome anyone to present an argument to the contrary.

Unless the shareholders choose to serve the people or are mandated through contract, law, regulation, or force, they will serve their own self-interest. Does this mean that those in charge of the government programs behave in an altruistic way? No, they too look out for their own self interests as well. The difference here is the mandate. You cannot compare Medicare, Amtrak, and the Post Office to how a corporation would do it. They work under two distinct different principles.

So my question is this. Did Haliburton provide a better service to our troops then the government would have with government employees? Did they do it more efficiently and at less cost?

The idea that government is inefficient because it is government is a myth. Its problems are from lack of will and resolve, made worse by a party that believes itself to benefit more from its failure than from its success. If we are served better by corporations, then you would not hear any argument from me. We are not, simply because the corporation will always serve itself first over my needs. Give me the Post Office's foibles over Enron, Arthur Anderson, AIG, Bear Sterns, and GM any day.

So naively, I will try to put this argument to rest by showing how Mr. Steele is wrong. When FedEx needs to deliver a package to a remote rural address whom do they use? They use the Post Office. Why? Because the post office has a mandate to serve all addresses in the US, FedEx will only serve areas that are profitable - if there was not a Post Office FedEx would not deliver there unless the cost could be recouped. This is the same principle that awaits Medicare and Amtrak if we turn it over to the private sector.

For a little over $10.00 I can ship a box anywhere in the US by the Post Office. If you took FedEx and UPS out of the picture, this box would get delivered. However, if you take the Post Office away, many addresses would most likely no longer be served. Unless someone is willing to pay for it, corporations will only focus on endeavors that bring in the best rate of return. That is their mandate, and that is what they will do if you let them take over health care, the post office, or Amtrak. This corporate mandate serves you well if your are a shareholder, but it does not serve the people overall.

Let corporations take care of our wants and government take care of our needs.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Slippery Slope of Stupidity

MSNBC 2/21/08 - Air Force Col. Morris Davis, now head of the Air Force judiciary, said he believes "there are some very bad men at Guantanamo and some of them deserve the death penalty."

As part of the judiciary, Col. Davis has the right to believe, so what is the next step when the prosecutor "believes" that the party committed the act? Well the sixth Amendment to our Constitution comes to mind. You know, blah blah blah...speedy trial....blah blah..informed of charges....assistance of counsel. You know, things so important that they put it in there way at the begining. But wait Jeff, they also said in the 5th "except in cases arising ....in time of War or public danger." DoH! Don't have to! neener neener neener.

So that means what? We can do what ever we want?

There are things in life that we call slippery slopes. Gitmo was one of them. It served a purpose but created a problem, because not everyone who was sent there was bad. It was, and this is the fault of conservative thought, better to side with us then with them. They could be guilty, they could have done it. Some are bad - we know that, lets err on the side of protection.
He was picked up in Afghanistan in 2002. No one knows how old he was, maybe as young as 12. The Pentigon did a bone scan and said he was 17.
His lawyers say he has grown five inches during his time behind bars. He was accused of throwing a grenade and wounding Americans.
"I think the rules are fair," Col Davis said. "I think the problem is having political appointees injected into the system. They are looking for a political outcome, not justice."
So where is the justice after 7 years for a kid who, may or may not have done what he was accused of doing?

This is what makes the whole Gitmo thing so wrong, because it goes against what we are supposed to stand and fight and die for - that Constitution thingy, remember?

At some point they knew he was not one of those "bad men" and they knew he was also a kid. But because releasing him would be an admission of their mistake, they ignore it, passing it on so that someone else will make the call and take the heat. If he did do the deed then he should have been tried and sentenced.

How is that justice?

So lucky for us we have that three branches of government thingy that they also set up which gives us the ability to right a wrong using the law (oh the irony on that!).
July 30, 2009 (Reuters) — A U.S. judge on Thursday ordered that one of the youngest detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Judge Huvelle excoriated the government for the way it has handled this and other Guantanamo cases.
Cool! And thank God we got ol' Obama as our new Prez! Surely he will also do the right thing!
The Obama administration insisted it still was weighing a criminal case in U.S. federal court against Jawad for allegedly tossing a grenade that wounded two U.S. soldiers and their interpreter in Kabul in late 2002, but that no decision has been made.
August 24, 2009 (NPR) - One of the youngest people ever held at Guantanamo was welcomed home Monday by Afghanistan's president and joyful relatives after almost seven years in prison — freed by a military judge who ruled he was coerced into confessing to wounding U.S. soldiers with a grenade.
And as if on queue.....
Justice Department officials have said the criminal investigation of Jawad is still open but his transfer back to Afghanistan makes prosecution unlikely.

Ahhh the sweat sound of Justice....Not!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

We are the handyman

“They think Government is the way to fix everything.”

Same line, different day. Liberals want Government to take care of everything, conservatives want little Government involvement. Oh, if it was only that simple. It is in the mind of the 21st century conservative fed on a diet of rhetoric and government bashing. But I just sit there, mum, caught between wanting to challenge them on this idea but faced with the reality that it will isolate me in the community as well as it will not do anything to change their thinking. These people are too well indoctrinated into the idea that government is bad.
Glen Beck’s Point 1: America is good.
How can America be good if its government is bad?

Glen Beck’s Point 9: The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.
Who is “me”? If it answers to me, then it does my bidding. What about the other 304 million citizens? Unless we are all on the same page we are going to have some issues that need to be sorted out. Well how about majority rules? Sounds fair, unless you are in the minority.

So my question to people who believe government is bad, or should not be the one to fix things, is this. If you do not task government with the responsibility of fixing problems associated with 304 million people trying to live together, who will be given this responsibility? Who decides what is a problem of “the common good” and what needs to be fixed? Who should be responsible for maintaining the "happiness" for the people?

The mantra from the right has been that government cannot fix things, it should not meddle, it should stay out of our lives, that I know best how to take care of my own business. In a sense, what is being fed to people is we do not need government, or at the very least, we need our government not yours.

The idea that “I know what is best for me” only works if what is best for you does not interfere with what is best for me. Anyone that thinks that people will do the right thing should watch what takes place in a store parking lot during “tax free” day. People do not do what is in the best interest of everyone, they do what is in their own self interest. Government can, and should, be tasked with doing what is in the common interest.

If America is good, as Glen Beck says it is, it is because of its 304 million people’s ability to function. The common good is the foundation for this. Good government maintains the happiness of the people. So let’s keep Beck’s point 1 “America is Good” and change Point 9 to something a little more Benjamin Franklin like:
Point 9: The government works for us. I sacrifice to the public good and in return my government procures and secures my happiness.
We the people = We the government. If the government can't fix problems then we can't fix problems. If the government is the enemy of the people then the enemy is us.

You get the point.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

US History with a dash of Newt

In today’s paper “Plans for texts has many riled up – Texas public school students should learn about Newt Gingrich and other conservative politicians but not liberals according to the first draft of proposed standards” all brought to you by the Texas State Board of Education.

First thought through my head was “to the victors go the spoils” which, as I was told as a kid, means that history is written by those in control. Now I don’t expect much from the same group that had a religious neocon at its lead and just recently hired another one in his place. These folks have an agenda, they are biased, and really don’t care about truth or fairness if it runs counter to what they want and believe.

But to be fair, I cannot just take what the “liberal” press feeds me, because you know they have an agenda too – just ask Sarah Palin. No, but really, the press is prone to misunderstanding just like the rest of us, and since everyone quotes and presents the same story, if it is wrong to start with it gets passed on as wrong. So being the good lil’ scientist I am, I find the document and the passage.

Now I have no idea if the group that put this together had an agenda to snub liberals or indoctrinate our youth to think and become conservative. It is possible that what they were trying to do is show the shift in mindset as we moved into the 21st century. That shift, like it or not, was towards conservative views and policy ushered in by Newt Gingrich and the moral majority it it changes the lay of the land significantly. So it is possible that there was no mention of liberal movers and shakers because they played very little in this shift.

On the other hand, the requirement to study Phyllis Schlafly does not hold well for this argument, in my opinion, since she was no more a player in this process as anyone on the left or right. Understanding how Conservative advocacy is how one “understands the circumstances of the US as it emerges into the 21st century." Students should know how it came about, who the players were, and how it took place.

So before we tar and feather these guys for promoting their conservative agenda. Let’s back off a bit and hear what they have to say. If my take is correct, then it is important for kids to know, because I was also told way back when that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat the same mistakes again.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Listening without hearing

Proof that people will yell support for anything, regardless of what was just said.

Borat at rodeo: "May George Bush drink the blood drink the blood of every single man, woman, and child of Iraq"

Crowd: Whoops and hollers in support.


Blue October - Argue with a tree - intro to James: "This is a song about hurting someones feelings so bad"

Crowd: Whoops and hollers in support.


NPR - Man to Rep Brian Baird (D-WA) at a health care town-hall meeting: "I am a marine, as a disabled veteran that served this country, I have kept my oath, do you ever intend to keep yours?"

Crowd: Whoops and hollers in support.

This was right after (but not caught on tape) the crowd was demanding to know if AmeriCorps volunteers were arming to take over the country and whether the health care plan would dictate how parents would raise their children.

$10 bucks says they whooped and hollered at that too.

Monday, August 17, 2009

You Go Girl...please...go

I am no fan of Texas A&M's athletics director Bill Byrne ever since he canceled Scouts day at Kyle Field a few years back so he could sell the seats originally promised to the area youth organizations including the Boy and girl Scouts.

The Eagle has a fairly in-depth article on his department and the financial problems Aggie Athletics are having under his watch. What I found interesting are two of the reasons for the deficit:
"If we had been selling out Kyle Field, you would not be asking me these questions," Byrne told The Eagle last week. "We would be operating in the black."
And if only I could win the lottery all my financial troubles would be over too!

"The department spends $20 million on women's sports for every $1 million those teams bring in. That spending has allowed the department to stay compliant with federal law while receiving national acclaim."
Those gosh-darn pesky woman and their stupid Title 9 law! He would have 19 million extra dollars if they would just go back to the way it was before we were MADE to let them play.

News Flash Mr. Byrne, Woman's Sports has succeeded at A&M because of the woman who participated, not because of you, your new buildings, your loan, or your $690,000.00 salary.

The financial problems any organization is experiencing are the result of a number of things, but failure of leadership is what allows them to manifest. From the "buck stops here" to the "buck is past here."

You've come a long way baby! Now go home

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bong hits for Justice

What is the difference between Glenn Beck, Michael Phelps, Warren Christopher Scroggins, and Whitney Ann Parrish?

Only Scroggins and Parrish got caught with it.

Which brings me to Beck's point number 5:
If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.
So there Beck was, token the whacky tobacky, saying to himself "father really does know best!" And Phelps, not wanting to go to Disneyland, found himself lip-locked with a "marijuana pipe" (I love it when the press acts like they don't know what a bong is).

Both broke the law and nothing happened. Oh Phelps lost Kellogg's but he still makes more in one year then I will make in 20. They are not above the law, only lucky enough to not get caught.

But Scroggins and Parrish on the other hand, for less than 5 ounces are up for a felony. A felony that will stop them from living any assemblage of the life that me, Beck or Phelps get to live if they are found guilty.

We need to really look at the damage we cause to people, especially young kids, when we brand them with a felony. Two kids under 21 should not be punished for life for doing the same thing that a large - and I do mean large - percentage of respectable citizens have done as well. Why should they pay such a high price for a youthful indiscretion?

So lets see if Mr. Beck will change point 5 to something a little more fair.
If you break the law you pay a penalty, correct your mistake, and move on. No one found guilty should be denied an opportunity for redemption, forgiveness, or absolution. Justice is blind and no one is above it.
And on this note, today Lynette "squeaky" Fromme, was released on parole from federal prison after spending three decades behind bars. Charles Manson had recruited her off the street in the Venice section of Los Angeles when she was a troubled 18-year-old college student.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Glenn Beck - Ultimate Authority

Glenn Beck has nine principles he has put forth. According to his website:
Our Founding Fathers built this country on 28 powerful principles. These principles were culled from all over the world and from centuries of great thinkers. We have distilled the original 28 down to the 9 basic principles.
Funny, when I went to look for these original 28 all I can find is reference to God, which, if I know my founding fathers correctly, got the appropriate nod and then it was down to business, silly things like separation of power, representation, law. Anyway on to Mr. Beck......

There is a common theme for conservatives and libertarians, that is "we know best." Now that is an OK principle but when you know best prohibits or infringes on me, well now we gots us a problem! I have said it before, you cannot manage 300 million folks without a government which means idiot conservatives need to have a voice just like naive loony liberals. Which means we have to compromise and do what is best for everyone overall. Y'all need to live with my right to carry and public schools without prayer. Two way street there pardner!

So back to Mr. Beck...jeez!
Point 4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.
Common conservative theme. I know what is best for me and my family and I don't need no stink'n gov'ment to tell me how to live! America! USA! USA! USA!

And now Mr. Beck will demonstrate just how this "ultimate authority" should work in the homes of America:

PAULA ZAHN NOW Hooked: When You Can't Stop Aired March 15, 2007

ZAHN: "Addiction" airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on HBO.

Some parents don't have to save a child from addiction; they need to save themselves. That was the case for my colleague Glenn Beck.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK: I would get up, do the show, run the radio stations, come home, by 5:00, not a second after, I would pour myself one tumbler. I would smoke a bong, and take it from there.

ZAHN: Were you doing this with kids in the house?

BECK: Mm-hmm.

ZAHN: Did your kids see you...

BECK: No.

ZAHN: ... get stoned?
OK, so unlike Dr. Laura, he actually admits it, what is missing is the acknowledgment that if he was the ultimate authority he was a poor one. So lets rewrite point 4:
The family is sacred to be worshiped with ganja. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority on how best to harm and/or endanger our children, not the government who's interest in my family's well-being does nothing but show how shitty a parent I am.

Next blog: what is the difference between Glenn Beck, Michael Phelps, Warren Christopher Scroggins, and Whitney Ann Parrish?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Please sir, can I have some more?

More of Matt Friedeman’s christian fellowship:
“The battlefield now shifts from Capitol Hill to each congressional district, and we’re calling in reinforcements – YOU!” To help you in that effort, we’ve produced a short list of key concerns and questions, which are copied below. “
Point 5 - RATIONING CARE:
Question for your Congressmen: Will you oppose any healthcare reform bill that in any way limits my access to healthcare or medicines recommended by my doctor?
News Flash! Access to health care is rationed in the US already:
  1. Preexisting illnesses not covered or denial of insurance altogether
  2. Denial of certain treatments and procedures recommended
  3. Non-coverage for certain treatments and procedures
  4. Denial of payment for treatment and procedures already performed
When someone else is paying the bill they will, do, and can limit coverage regardless of what is recommended by the doctor. To believe that this is not currently taking place is to be terribly naive and really out of touch with our current system.

This “OMG they will ration my healthcare if Obama has his way” is ignoring the fact that health care is rationed all the time by insurance companies. If you saw the movie “The Incredibles” Bob Parr’s job at the insurance company was to deny claims. That was pre-Obama mind you.

Here is the rub, under our present system when a claim is denied, it benefits the insurance company and its shareholders (and indirectly policy holders). In Britain for example, when new/experimental care is denied for coverage it is done to allow the rest of society to have access to healthcare. So you need to decide who you want to help with the rationing, because rationing will happen UNLESS you are willing to pay for it. And since the other big complaint against healthcare reform is the cost, I will hazard a guess that cheap will be the soup d’jur.

So do you ration to increase insurance company profits or do you ration to provide coverage to all? You can’t have your damn cake and eat it too. Choose one.


Note: Apparently I was not the only one to think of Bob Parr. While searching for the name of his company I came across another blog that referenced it.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Onward christian shillmen....

After seeing my last post the wife asks me ”why are you looking for Christian radio stations?”

When I rent a car for work, I like to listen to public radio which is on the low end of the dial – yea the left side – so what of it! To get to the station 89.1, I have to go thru a few “christian” radio stations that have decided to take up residence where traditional public radio access has resided.

So a few days ago, while on my way to 89.1 I get stopped on 89.9

“We need to oppose Obamacare!”

“We need to show up at these town meetings and be vocal, let’s not be violent, that’s not how Christians should act…..”

“We need to……"

So there I was listening to this guy, on a christian radio station, asking myself the question who is “we”?

This christian talk show host is a guy named Matt Friedeman and apparently the “we” he is speaking to are folks that listen to christian radio stations, which I assume are Christians wanting to listen to a "family friendly" radio station (or guys like me just passing through).

There seems to be a general theme to the “talk” on these christian stations – that is it is almost always anti-Obama and anti-democrat. I am not sure exactly why opposing health care reform requires the work of Christians, unless when you ask yourself the question “What would Jesus do?” and you receive a divine answer of ”go forth and disrupt town-hall meetings!”

Under the guise of morality, the domain of the preacher/religious zealot, arguments can be made for and against any proposed law or government action. Guys like Friedeman should be arguing, like Jesus would have, for health care coverage that is not dependent on if one has a job that provides coverage and/or one is rich enough to pay for it.

I have read Mr. Friedeman’s opposition points to the healthcare debate, they are primarily based on a misunderstanding and/or fear, which in my opinion, is put out there to illicit apprehension which will lead to opposition.

Friedman and his ilk are either terribly naive, ignorant, misguided, or shills for those whose agenda is not one in the best interest of society as a whole. There are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed, but opposition just to oppose is not going to solve this problem.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Jugstaposition (sorry, couldn't stop myself)

juxtaposition: the act or an instance of placing two or more things side by side; also : the state of being so placed.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What's in it for me?

At some basic level, it really comes down to am I better off now than before? All things considered, I have stagnated, so whatever economic policies under the previous President were in place, really did little to change my lot in life.

But under Obama, within his first six months I get a new car!


With the cash for clunkers program, I received $4500 for our 94 4-wheel drive Explorer. Ford pitched in $1000, and I got another $2500 because of where I work. Then to top it all, Ford gave us three years financing at zero percent interest.

Finally a government program I get to partake in, and I finally get a car with air conditioning and windows that will roll up! Wins all around! The salesman gets a commission, the dealership makes money, and Ford sells another car.

I am sad that the Explorer had to be euthanized, she was still running strong even after 15 years. I also sympathize with the auto wreckers that lose a good engine, but the program was designed to stimulate the economy and remove less fuel efficient vehicles off the road which reduces foreign oil demand and reduces pollution (unless I drive it more since it does have AC).

All in all not a bad program with the exception of the dealership is up in the air as to if the government will follow through on their end, which leaves me with the possibility of the deal falling through.

If that happens then I will not have a new car and therefore will not like Obama.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The story of LilPinkGrl

In 2001, right before 9/11 my oldest and I were getting ready for our high adventure trip to Philmont Scout Reservation. We would don our backpacks and walk around the neighborhood at night trying to prepare ourselves for what lay ahead.

So we had just left the house and while on the street we see this little toy something laying there.

"Hey! it's a little pink girl!" my kid says.

And so LilPinkGrl- as she has became known as - came to live with us.


I noticed from the picture my wife took of her that she had taken some road damage before we saved her, losing her nose to the asphalt. But she is a tuff little girl and after nursing her back to health she has gone on some rather harrowing adventures as a music playing Vah Shir in EverQuest, a Frosty Sorceress in Diablo II, and most recently a Dwarf Shadow Priest on WoW.

It may seem kind of strange for a 50 something adult male to play computer games as a female character named LilPinkGrl. Heck its strange that I game as much as I do period, but there is a reason in this case. LilPink actually represents a real something.

Tonight she is going to go fishing and will hunt down some cheese/wine glass/carrots/mushrooms for the umpteenth time in order to get her a cooks hat. I need to repeat this process for about 35 more days and the stupid hat is all hers!

Hey, you go get a life, I do what I can to make her happy, she's a little sensitive about her looks - that missing nose thing - so she thinks that hat will make her look special.

After 25 years of marriage I know never to argue about these types of things.