Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mid-week Thoughts

These are Tuesday through Thursdays clippings from the newspapers and stories from the radio news shows, namely NPR, PRI and other non-commercial news. The weather turned better here in paradise, which means it's only slightly better than shitty, er, rainy, windy and cloudy, with occasional sun breaks and temps in the mid-upper 40's. Ok, it aint Minnesota cold but hey they have their paradise and I have mine. And I'd rather face a rain/windstorm than a snowstorm.

Ok, the news, the obvious, Iraq. Two things.

First, the Iraqi Defense Minister told the press they will need the near-full US military presence to at least 2012 and likely 2018, and this is predicated on the full support of the US to provide the Iraqi military with all its needed equipment, included a fully equiped army and air support. Hmmm..., are we ready to give Iraq tanks, helicopters, planes, and missles? Do we trust them that much they won't go the way of corruption into the hands of someone else, as we know 190,000 pistols, rifles, rpgs and other small arms have?

And are we ready to provide military training for another 10 years? And what about sharing intelligence? Are we ready to show them our technology for information and intelligence gathering? Or worse, provide them either access or the equipment? We don't share our miltary secrets with friendly nations, nor they with us, so it's a real question if we don't share or support with equipment and they decide to ask China or Russia for the same stuff.

Second, the Bush administration is talking with the Iraqi government to agree to longterm agreement for longterm US support. Bush wants to secure agreements under that 2012-2018 time frame before his leaves office. This virtually ties the next President to the agreement unless Congress acts to styme it if not prevent it without their approval. But Bush wants to see a permanent US presence in Iraq for decades.

Real scary stuff, thinking of 120,000-160,000 or more troops for another decade in a country fewer and fewer people are liking us except for our money and arms.

Remember Bush promising Isreal $30 Billion in military aid last year and then promised Saudi Arabia $20 Billion? Well, as part of the deal we're selling Saudi Arabia 900 satellite guided missles for $123 Million, in part to offset Isread but now also Iran. Gee, the Saud family is building a military nation to protect it from its own neighbors, and we're happy to sell them the arms, because if we don't China and Russia will.

I was listening to an interivew with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. When he was asked if he felt it's time for Congress to review the Department's budget as it's the largest in history and the largest in the government, he said the whole State Department budget is $36 Billion, which is less than the Defense Department spends on health care for the military forces. Huh?

We've become not a nation of diplomacy but one of militarism. Our diplomacy is our arms and armed forces, not our intelligence, compassion, ethics, morality, and justice. We're the world's bully, front and center, and the military now sees our "national security" the one and only role of government, even at the expense of everything else, like the people, freedom, civili liberties and rights, justices, education, healthcare, infrastructure, environment, and on and on.

In order to be the superpower of the world we intend to pay for it with everything else we have. We'll bankrupt the country to protect and save it in the name of it. Is this what we're about?

Don't believe any of it, or only some? Well, after a federal court judge ruled the Navy's new sonar system and war games violated environmental laws, and ordered they revise their plan according to the rules he spelled out, Bush issued an exemption, in the name of national security. The Navy doesn't have to comply with the judge's order until the appeals court hears the case. In short, we have to comply with the law but our government doesn't because it doesn't want to comply.

Gee, talk about arrogance in the name of national security. What good is a nation to secure and protect if it's wasted by our own government in the name of corporations and war?

Keeping on the topic of George. When God meets God meets God. George's trip to the Middle East. He wearing his faith on his sleeve, and frequently espousing it in the face of Judaism and Islam. What is he thinking, "My God is better than yours."? What happened to secular diplomacy? He really thinks promoting his christianity is good?

Well, it turns out it's landing on deaf ears as his plan to save the Isreali-Palestinian conflict. No one is listening George. So what don't you understand about "lame duck"? He plans more trips to ensure he's serious and wants a deal. Like he's the boss and they had better mind? George, being a west Texas sheriff doesn't sell outside the US.

Ok, I'll stop with George tirade, and pick on Cheney, which is actually scarier. Cheney is pushing the Department of Interior to open Alaska and artic seas to oil and gas drilling before he leaves office, so when he return to private industry, they'll reward him handsomely for all the money they''ll be making at our expense.

And the key which could derail this is the same agency who is delaying listing the polar bear as endangered. This would cancel any drilling leases, or at least postpone them indefinitely until the bear is removed from the list. So on one side they're not doing the right thing for the people and bears and on the other selling leases to the same lands and waters. Gee, our VP is thinking of us or his corporate friends?

Remember this doesn't change with Presidents. The leases, if sold, are sold, and the next President can simply refuse to allow drilling until the environmental studies are done and the courts have decided. It's a half done deal, and Cheney knows this. And you really trust his smiling face? I don't trust him anymore than I can see a snow owl in a snowstorm.

And now for something different. Microsoft. They're being sued again by the European anti-trust regulators. Twice even. Once for Internet Explorer which we know was bundled to steal business from competitors, and once for not releasing the secrets to its operating system for other companies can make better software packages for PC's. In short, they failed to live up to their promises made 3-5 years ago.

And everyone knows MS' makes inferior products, except the PC junkies who swear by them because it's all they know. And we know MS has never fully complied with the W3C standards for Web browsers where Opera, Mozilla, Netscape and Safari have and are far better browsers. Every Web designer and developer hates IE for all it's flavors and IE-only tricks that aren't W3C comliant.

Ok, I hate PC's and Microsoft, and make no bones about it. My Website and pages are W3C compliant and I don't care if users with IE have problems. I design with Safari and test on the other three, and I leave IE out of the mix because I don't have it on my Mac. I left MS in 2005 when I retired and never looked back. There isn't anything a PC can do a Mac can't do better and easier. So I'm not losing any tears of their losses.

And if you really think Microsoft's case is fair and right, especially the one about XP and Vista so bundled it can't be parsed apart, explian why they sell scaled down versions of it to companies for computer aided manufacturiing and production systems, to companies and governments not wanting all the software, and for smaller devices? They can't because every part of either can successfully be removed to build a smaller package. They've lied to everyone and the courts for years.

They're the just the PC bully the Europeans caught them.

Ok, onward. Drugs. The New York Times this week that both Cholestrol and anti-depression drugs trials were frauds and the FDA approved drugs on only those trials that produce positive results. All the equal number of studies with negative or neutral results weren't published or rewritten to be positive.

Gee, this is news? The big business of drugs and patents, and you wonder why the drug companies are the most profitable and richest in the world? After all it's the same here as in Europe too. It's not about our health, but money. So, if you're taking drugs for depression and cholestrol, maybe it's time to rethink things and talk with your physician about if it's really working or giving the appearance of working.

After all the drug(s)' effect could be disguised in the other changes you make in your life, like exercise, lifestyle, food, sleep, work/family changes, etc. Ever wonder why you're taking it? Because your doctor said so? Why? Did you ask him if the drug really works?

Ok, the reality is that I don't trust drugs. All those side effects really scare the life out of me. I had a father who was on 11 drugs late in his life, half to offset the side effects or other drugs. Like one for diabetes, which required one for blood pressure, which required one for cholestrol, which required one for liver damage, which... Get the picture? My Mom finally got him down to a half dozen but those were only prolonging a body that had long given up.

I don't take drugs except for short periods for temporary illnesses and one for my dental work, which now is considered optional. My dentist has said it's my decision and will write prescriptions if I want as a precaution. And that's the key. It's precaution than a fix. I do take half a dozen health supplements, and have for over a decade, but I can't honestly say if they're really working either. I stop one or two occasionally for a few months, and if I notice a difference I go back on them.

So we make our choices. I know my health supplements don't have serious side effects, and at worse are simply placebos. I can't say that about drugs when I read the page(s) of technical information about each one.

And now a good decision. The Department of Interior has refused to grant Tribes the right to purchase off-reservation land for casinos. I'm not a fan of Tribal government's power, but it's our history which has come back to haunt us 150 years later. But one good thing is that Tribes can't buy land. They have to get any land declared Tribal by the Department of Interior, and that's the holdup.

Tribes can build casinos on reservations, as many have already, and which have shown to be just as bad and corrupt and other casinos (ok, I hate gambling of any kind - hey, it's my view that's all). And they have acted as bullies at times on some issues, like fisheries (Washington State), fireworks (unlimited sale), liquor/cigarette sales (not collecting taxes), and so on. And they've shown they don't share even in their own Tribe.

And much of their money still comes from the government throught Bureau of Indian Affairs - which is one agency we could do without (again, my personal view from experience). It's the old argument they want independence from us then want our money to do it and sustain them if they fail. But wanting off-reservations is a step too far. They're identified as soverign nations in the US, but they're not soverign to act like this, to buy land, build a casino, and not pay their fair share of taxes (being Tribes).

This was a good decision and should become permanent.

This one is interesting. A former lobbyist and congressman was indicted for giving money to charities which eventualy gave money to terrorist groups, namely Al Qeada. And the charity has had its assest frozen in the US and indicted, but no documents prove what they did was illegal. The government only decided after labelling them on a list of Islamic r Arabic organizations. The government has never proven these organizations violated the law, only they suspect without evidence.

So, let me see here. We supported Al Qeada and the Taliban (movie Charlie Wilson's War) for nearly ten years including Osama Bin Laden himself. That wasn't illegal? And we have supported the people these Islamic and Arabic organizations are helping, but that's not illegal? But a citizen does it and it is illegal? Whew, mind boggling.

And almost all of the cases like this eventually either fade away as charges are dropped or the individuals are found guilty on related minor charges, not those of "providing material support to terrorist groups."

It's funny that the government has identified all the Islamic or Arabic organizations, especially those with remote ties to Palestininan or Iraqi groups, but no jewish group supporting similar acts against muslims. Why is that?

Parting jesture. We all know the history of the discovery of the Americas and the conquest by European countries, mostly introducing new diseases to the native people which turn decimated populations to 10-25% of the numbers before the Europeans. Remember your history?

Well, it seems now they discovered the discoverers brought back a souvenir. Syphilis. It seems Europe before the discovery of the Americas syphilis was a near extinct disease, that is until 1490's, after Columbus' return, when it was reported again. Gee, my love, guess what I brought home?

Well, the natives got their revenge eventually. We traded diseases, and experienced the first globalization. And we thought it was a new idea.

So that's my parting thought. If you think your life is tough, think about this little guy, and if you run out of friends to talk with, create one Have a good weekend.

No comments: