Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sunday thoughts

This is Sunday, and after the previous rants at Starbucks and the Makah Tribe.

I won't stop about Starbucks, they're a strange company, the complexity of being a corporation. On one hand, being the world's number one independent arabica bean coffee importer, they've helped the coffee growers in Costa Rica, making many smaller coffee farmers profitable. On the other hand, considering buying Clover equipment company which make $8,000+ plus drip-coffee makers to incorporate their machines into Starbucks stores. The news was greeted with displeasure by rival coffee-cafes which use Clover equipment, creating market control of some of that market.

So, is it still reason to boycott Starbucks? Well, as always, yes and no. For helping coffee growers, no, but then other buyers would fill the market if Starbucks didn't buy their coffee. The demand for Arabica coffee is growing, so they're not that hurt. But yes, for their business practices, namely short-changing baristas and trying to control aspects of the markets. Me thinks they're just a bit too big?

They've always been known for trying to drive out competition in many areas. In one commercial areas near where I live, there are three on each of those corners at the main intersection, one a drive-through, one in Safeway and one national store. And there is no other cafe in the whole commercial area except a SBC in Borders. The closest one is a Cutter's Point Coffee in another commercial center across the highway.

And while I like the Starbucks store coffee, I like the SBC cafe and baristas more, who make a better mocha. The complaint against Starbucks is that they roast their coffee a bit too dark. I've heard this from a many sources including independent cafe owners. But it's up to you. I won't really boycott them completely, it's too hard and there are too few independent cafe or baristas, even in the Seattle area.

Other news?

Iraq, what else is there? Does anyone but Bush and Cheney know or think Iraq is not in a civil war? The Iraqi government forces fighting another Shiite (Sadr's) militia isn't a civil war? And without the suppot of US aircraft, artillery and intelligence the Iraqi forces would be losing againt Sadr's militia. Is there any good news here anymore? Since they're delaying the drawdown of surge until the summer-fall timeframe, it seems Bush and the Army is really pushing all the problems to the next President.

So, are they ready to give the American public some real answers?

Bush and the Senate. While Bush wants Mr. Bradbury approved by the Senate for the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel Senator Harry Reid is saying no and not bringing any nomimations for any court, commission or anything to the committee until his nomination is withdrawn. It's a standoff, stalemate, whatever you want to call it. And we're losing.

So to George, what don't you understand about politics, giving up one nomination gets you many more other ones? Mr. Bradbury will never get a hearing, so give it up and get your other nominations, and let the Senate get on with the real business of helping Americans. At least they're trying.

The candidates. I'm coming to the view that maybe, just maybe, if we put the three in a blender, we could get one who has the best qualities of each and make the best candidates. But I know even that wouldn't come near the qualities of Bill Bradley. So, we still lose.

With the respect to the long Democratic primary with two equally strong candidates, I have to say to all the pundits who are arguing this isn't good for the party, quite the opposite, it's all about the people and choices. And the Democratic party will be fine when a candidate has been elected. No one doubts there will be some residual hurt and anger, but it will be put behind them as the Democratic nominee unites the party.

People forget two things. The Democrats are a diverse bunch of people which makes it a good party over the republicans. You can hold your view and still be a member of the party. Rebel republicans don't have such luxury to disagree with the majority. The Democratic process is messy, and will all the divergent voices, it's really messy, but they come around, even with some residual anger, but they know they could voice their view.

So I'm not worried about the Democratic primary. They'll get it together. History has shown they have many times before and I don't see any reason to worry this time. The pundits need to get look at history and rethink their view and opinion. In the meantime, it's an interesting campaign to hear the candidates..

Anyway, that's the news I saw worth a thought beyond just reading the article and reading on.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Makah Whale Hunting

I was listening to Seattle (Univerity of Washington) KUOW radio show Morning Edition and the discussion (10-11:00 am) talked about the recent plea bargain with 3 of the 5 Makah Tribal members who hunted a Gray Whale without a permit. The other two have decided, at this point, to go to trial, where if found guilty they could be sentenced to 1 year in jail and $100,000. I won't give away my view just yet.

Anyway, Danny Westneat, a regular on the radio show, talked about his column defending their right under the 1855 Treaty between the Makah Tribe and the US Government. I didn't have time to write or call into the show to respond, but I did by e-mail with Mr. Westneat.

I wrote him because Mr. Westneat appeared to put all his evidence for his view on the 1855 Treaty, which he confirmed with additional information. And while I agree the Makahs do have a right to hunt whales, it's clear those who believe this right supercedes all other rights or laws, have it wrong. Ok, why?

First, the 1855 Treaty clarifies their right as such:

The right of taking fish and of whaling or sealing at usual and accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the United States, and of erecting temporary houses for the purpose of curing, together with the privilege of hunting and gathering roots and berries on open and unclaimed lands: Provided, however, That they shall not take shell-fish from any beds staked or cultivated by citizens."

Note it says, " common with all citizens...", meaning their right is the same as all of us except for the provision for their native hunting waters.

Second, the Makah Tribe does not own any open ocean water. Tribes only own the land on their reservation and can only manage and operate huniting on that reservations, and everything outside the reservation is under local, state or federal government jurisdiction. They don't regulate the waters where Gray Whales are, that's the province of the National Marine Fisheries Service NMFS, and Whales are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Not the Makah Tribe.

Third, the Makah Tribe stopped hunting Gray Whales about 1920 and didn't resume hunting until 1999 when they conducted a whale hunt to reconnect the Tribe's youth with "traditional" whaling practices. Except that practice had to follow the methods prescribed by the International Whale Commission, which requires the use of a 50-caliber rifle for the actual kill of any whale.

And while it can be argued they stopped hunting because of the decline in the population of Gray Whales, they didn't even try for 52 years, before the MMPA was implemented in 1972 to protect whales in US waters, and they never applied for a permit nor an exempltion, which some Alaska Tribe currently have, in the following 27 years. That's 80 between whale hunts, and far from an on-going tradition.

And lastly, when the whale hunt was announced in 1999, some in the Tribe criticized it as unnecessary since so few member ate whale meat and the rest of it was mostly unuseable for practical needs. The permit they did get for 5 whales required they use all of the whale as they did to comply with their traditional practices. One said at the time there will be a lot of whale meat and blubber in freezers for a long time.

Ok, my view? Kinda' obvious? The three youths got off easy with the plea bargain. My advice to them is take it and run. And the other two, since they want a trial, should be prosecuted and get the full sentence. Let's see the Tribe come up with $200,000 to pay the fines for a Gray Whale that sadly died as the result of their illegal act.

On the radio show Mr. Westneat said the many believe the Makah's next permit application or the exemption application should be "buried in the biggest inbox" and forgotten, or as any federal manager would say, "...pending evaluation." The Makahs can then, as they did for the 1999 whale hunt, go to federal court to speed up the process. That's their right.

And my view? I'm against whaling at any level. We need to let the whale population get back to very high numbers where the ocean is full of whales again. And we need to ensure they have the food sources to increase their numbers. It's about the health of the planet for all animals. And it's within the right of the US government to tell the Makah Tribe, if citizens can't hunt whales in US water, neither can the Makah.

But that's only my opinion.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Boycott Starbucks

Yeah, right, like we can boycott Starbucks, the largest independent coffee importer and chain coffee cafe. They're everywhere in the U.S., both independent and in-store cafes. I go to one at least once a week because they're open early Sunday mornings for newspapers and coffee. And often several times during the week, but only when I can't find another cafe, preferably small independent or chain cafe, such as SBC or Tullys.

Starbucks is noted for the good employee benefits and policies, another reason to support them. You're supporting people who enjoy their job and work hard. They deserve the tips you give them. And that's where I'm thinking of boycotting Starbucks. Not for their products or service, and especially not the employees, but the arogrance of their CEO Howard Schulz.

A class action suit filed in California was decided in favor of the plaintiff, the employees, who sued that tips belong to employees and can't be shared by managers. The court agreed that tips weren't for members of management, because they're not the classification of employees eligible for tips. It would have been a good jesture by the CEO to agree, and then change the corporation's policy and reimburse the employees the court mandated.

Or so, you would think it would be a good jesture for a good CEO. But Mr. Schulz has decided to appeal the decision. And his communications to the employees really doesn't explain it. He tries to treat managers, which sometimes may work as baristas from time to time since most start as baristas, as the same as fulltime baristas. What doesn't he understand about California law that says anyone who supervises is management?

Starbucks has other policies I'm not happy with. You can't tip baristas in Starbucks cafe in Safeway stores because they're not Starbucks employees. They're Safeway employees. And the same for anywhere else Starbucks is in stores. That's unfair to the baristas. What's good about doing your best if the customer can't thank you with a tip?

And Howard Schulz himself isn't loved by many here. He tried to bully the local government when he not only blocked off a public access to the public beach in front of his lake front home, he built into to like it was his property. The local government had to go to court to force him to pay for the work to remove his work and build the public access. He tried to make it a public relations issue of the government bullying him, which didn't last when the facts became public.

Anyway, my point? Well, obviously it's too hard to boycott Starbucks, for me at least since a few know me as a routine customer. And it wouldn't be fair to the employees to boycott them for the actions of the CEO. So, I don't have an answer but somehow we need to send a message to Howard Schulz, like we can, and if we could, would he listen? I doubt it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday's Thoughts

Well, I updated my other blogs, available in the right column of this blog under "News & Opinions" and "Mt. Rainier NP". This is Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park. And we still have at least a month to go before the snowpack normally ceases to accumulate, meaning it stopping snowing, and snowmelt begins which usually ends about early to mid-June except for higher elevations. And in some years it may be delayed into May and the last of the snow into July.

Anyway, the news, or interesting stuff.

First, how can a 22-year old company president get a contract for $300 million to supply ammunition to the Afghanistan military when it's discovered much of that ammunition is either very old, some going back to 1966, made in China, or both? That's what's happened when the Afghanistan military discoverd when they received their supply compliments of the US government. That sure made an impression with them.

And now the US Defense Department is looking into how a startup company managed got the contract and then managed to find and buy ammunition from eastern Europe which was long abandoned as unuseable, some even so corroded it can't be used or be dangerous to the soldiers. So far he's received $155 million of his contract and the DOD has frozen the rest pending an investigation.

As usual, the president of the company denys anything wrong. Stayed tuned folks, sounds typical with the war profitteering. The whole story available on the New York Times.

Ok, I'll limit the rest to the other blogs, but add some parting jestures.

First, my favorite, the on-line Vietnam War Memorial.

Second, a 92-year old street photographer, Vivian Cherry, and her Website.

Third, the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Lastly, never lose anything white in snow.

Have a good week. I'm off on errands and trips, somewhere other than here.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Obama and Clinton

Ok, folks. I was listening to NPR Saturday Morning Edition, and the story about the voters in Pennsylvania. It seems everyone seems to have an opinion on the candidates, but when you listen to their reasons, they all miss one point. Their views are solely based on selective information, the information they want to use to justify their view, and not express the greater issue and present other information.

For example, someone said she supported Hilary Clinton because she (the person) believe Hilary's experience as First Lady counts. For what? I'm not discounting it takes experience, knowledge and understanding to run the White House, but let's get real. She doesn't run the White House. First, she has a staff to help manage and administrate her time and work. Second, the White House has a staff who run the operations and management.

She was the like a visiting CEO of the White House. That's all, she directs her staff to work with the White House staff. To say it compares with Obama's experience in Chicago is absurb. They're different experiences. And her trips in the name of the United States is only as a courtesy or ceremonial representative, not anything more because she's not a diplomat nor has any authority or power.

Her work on issues, such as universal health care, does count for something, and this is where her experience does compare to Obama's because it requires being involved and working with many others toward a goal with a plan. That I'll give her, not her First Lady experience. It's useful but not that relevant to being President.

Another example, another said Hilary would have Bill Clinton to assist her work and be good "breakfast partner." I'll give Bill credit for having been President, but he'll be the First Gentleman, which isn't the same as President. It's the same as First Lady, nothing more.

And for "breakfast partner"? Ok, I'll give some room there, Bill would be good. But let's not discount Michelle Obama's help and partenership with Barrack. I've listened to interviews with her, and she's terrific. She's smart, wise and a good partner to Barrack. I have no doubt she's been an outstanding "breakfast partner" too, and for their own reasons on par with Hilary and Bill.

So, in the end, the arguments don't hold water in comparsion. Both the candidates are excellent, still not my favorities, but the Democrats have two excellent choices. And I think the campaign is excellent for the party and people. It's showing our democracy and republic are alive and well. And the "fight" within the party isn't a fight as the pundits say, it's a family argument, and in the end, they'll be ok and ready for the Presidential campaign.

And the conclusion? Like I haven't said it? Ok, Obama and Clinton are personal choices. That's it, neither better or worse, just different. And personally, I'm still hedging to Obama. Why?

I'm not doubting Hillary would be a good President. And her views and policies are and wouldn't be much different the Barracks'. It's the difference in the individual that echoes people preferences, personalities and campaign strategy and tactics. Right now I prefer Obama's. As I've said, I'm not interested in specifics, but perspectives. And Hilary hasn't said much about hers.

It's not about faith or belief, but perspective, their general view of things and issues, the foundation of their thoughts, ideas, attitudes, etc. I want them to espouse their world view, how they would translate it to reality and what they would do to accomplish it. Anyway, that's what I want to hear from them.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Thoughts

This is paradise in Mt. Rainier NP this morning, and that's 16 feet of snow. Ok, it's Good Friday. For the followers of this religious holiday, all the best to you and your loved ones this weekend. I'm a student of Taoism, so it's not that important to me. I prefer the wonders of the world, nature, and people.

So, what's new?

For one, lots of computer work this week. I'm back to where I was before except the computer is better, faster, more powerful, and so on. Ah, Apple Mac G5's, now with Leopard. Not bad, and better than a PC with Microsoft junk, or software to you PC's types.

Ok, onward to the news.

I haven't touched the Elliot Spitzer affair and events. My own comment is to the FBI, who's clients 1-8 and clients 10-onward, and why did you appear to focus so much on client 9, just one person you know is important and public? Politics maybe? Reading the stories, it's seems that way, destroying a high public official who just happens to be a Democrat. If he had been a Republican, would you have investigated that much and gone so public? Me thinks not.

Reading the news on the Russian oil affairs, it seems the big oil companies were taken for a ride by Vladimir Putin. He invited them into the oil industry for their investment, then took over the companies through proxies. Any bets in the future, the Russian government will eventually be the oil industry, just like under communism except now under Putin and friends? What's the difference between then and now? Nothing except they're far richer today.

Interesting stuff about our sneaky Vice President, you know the one we never know where his is and what he's doing, all in the name of security but more in the name of hiding from public scrutiny. It seems Bush and Cheney are trying to get agreements with Iraq for longterm commitments for US presence and support without going through Congress. You see, Cheney doesn't trust even telling Congress let alone getting their involvement.

What's going to hurt is the next President who has to completely undo what Cheney has done, so I'm not sure what he thinks he is doing, besides, making a mess and embarrassing the next President. And we know Bush loves Cheney for doing the dirty work he wants done. And in the face of public opinion, Cheney seems oblivious to reality and the truth, the American people don't want his involvement like this. Hence, hiding.

What's sad is Cheney still believes what he believed in 2001 when he wanted to go to war with Iraq, and that was before 9/11. He was one of the mastermnids behind the strategy and plan after the First Gulf War to invade and occupy Iraq. He can't seem to get his head out of his ass to see the real world. But it's funny that the Wall Street Journal now thinks he cool. Gee, Rupert Murdoch's influence as its owner now?

Anyway, I read David Mamet's column in the village Voice. And arriving at the end of it, I don't see much of a point except he had a moment of personal insight about the dfference between the Ideal we hold dear and the reality of the world. Gee, David, and you're a playwright who's supposed to have the pulse of the people?

David, where have you been all these years you wake up with a "Oh shit!" moment about your values? Sorry, being famous doesn't make you smart or wise, but only foolish to your own image. Get real.

Reading a recent WSJ editorial (Thursday) and New York Times editorial (Friday) about Iraq. Whew, totally different extremes. One saying the American people have it wrong and the other saying the White House has it wrong. Who is right or wrong? Neither and both. Huh?

The answer is that the pundits are wrong by simply standing there yelling at each other pretending to be right. They're not better than people standing on soapboxes on street corners about the evils in the world and way to salvation. The best thing to do is walk on and hope their words drown themselves in the noise of the crowd.

Ok, harsh. Yes. There's truth in both sides. The real answer always lies in between where reality meets people and the solutions are obvious no one has to say let alone explain them. But then that gets in the way of progress and people's personal and political agenda. It's easy to espouse a view that won't work, it's harder to find one that does.

If you want reality, listen to some good TexMex or Texas Blues music on a quiet sunny afternoon. I'm off for the weekend, so I'll catch you next week.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bush, Iraq and other thoughts

I listened to parts of George Bush's talk on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war. And the President said:

Looking back, Bush said, "Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting ... whether the fight is worth winning ... and whether we can win it. The answers are clear to me: Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision and this is a fight America can and must win."

George, what don't you want to remember and understand? Shall we hand you the copy of the 2003 State of the Union address, the very speech you gave to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq?

No one doubts Saddham Hussein was a ruthless dictator, but how many more of them are there in the world? A dozen or more? And you picked Saddham? Why? He didn't have WMD's - any remaining from the First Gulf War were useless. He didn't have an missiles to deliver imaginary WMD's. He didn't have a nuclear weapons programs, just a bunch of ideas and plans by his scientists. He didn't have any connection to Al Qaeda, he persecuted them as terrorists and he was on their enemies list. He wasn't involved with 9/11, most of those terrorists were from Saudi Arabia, the very country we support.

So, why are you lying to the American people?

Is the fight worth winning? For what? You have never clearly defined what winning is except some ambigous goal of a democratic nation in the Middle East when it's not realistic. So, is the wothiness really about the US control of a country and its oil supply?

Can we win it? Where have you been? And what reports have you been reading? A winnable war? When? You keep putting this goal out as it's now about America's pride than the future Iraqi people and government. It's now five years, so what haven't you done right to accomplish your own goal? Who failed?

As for your statement, "The terrorists who murder the innocent in the streets of Baghdad want to murder the innocent in the streets of American cities. Defeating this enemy in Iraq will make it less likely we will face this enemy here at home."

Do you have any proof of this? September 11th was about Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, not Iraq. The Iraq people want us out of Iraq, and nothing more. They want their country back from the US occupation. We're the enemy there, so why haven't you understood that fact and reality?

Al Qaeda in Iraq as the enemy? The Iraqi people and government doesn't like or want Al Qaeda there. Why do you keep making them the enemy when they're only about 5% of the acts of violence, the rest are by Iraqi insurgents, criminals, and ethinic or religious groups? What don't you understand?

And by the way, George, No One is expressing that we completely withdraw or retreat fromIraq. So, why do you keep putting all those who disagree with you in that camp when no one is in that camp. Or don't you like that we have realistic views and answers to this war you started, can't finish, and didn't win?

So who failed George? The soldiers didn't because done their best, and many have died and are permanently injured or disabled. How about the General and leaders who failed to support the troops with the right equipment? How abou the political leaders who failed to do their job to help build an Iraqi government? How about you? Where is this victory you so claim so much is the key to Iraq?

And one last question. What happened to the surge? You promised it would be short, and it's been almost a year now. And you're deciding it's, like your tax cuts for the rich, something you love but can't justify. Have you read the books on the history of President Johnson's troop surges and Vietnam?

Oh, I forgot, you're leaving in January 2009. You're going to dump the worst poltical and military disaster on the next President, who you're hoping is John McCain, who not just continue your policy but worsen it with more troops, more money and more dead and injured soldiers. Is that your new plan? To exit the stage leaving this country with the worst war in our history?

Gee, thanks. My final word to you. Go home to Crawford and cut brush. Mayabe someday, a decade or two from now when we're still in Iraq, you'll wake up to realize what you did, and won't find it good.

Ok, enough about George being the blind ignorant jesture with no clothes.

I listened to Obama's speech about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's speech. Thanks. For once an realistic answer to a controverial subject, race. Thank you for separating the man and his words. For separating one speech and his history. No one doubts people on both sides are what Rev. Wright describes. I had mine from a young black man in basic training who hated me for the color of his skin. He was from Detroit in the 1960's. Who can aruge with his experience?

It's endemic on both sides. But I'm glad it's out there in public forum. We all have our experience, our understanding, our knowledge and our beliefs and faith. It's ours, and sometimes it doesn't sound comforting. And maybe because the truth and reality isn't comforting.

Mr. Obama, I like this speech. I think it's time for some hope in the current times. We don't need lots of specifics because we know they're just promises of the moment and have no real meaning when it matters. I want to know a candidate's heart, spriit and faith to know where the look at the world, this country, the people, the issues, and so on.

If I want specifics, I'll wait until October when I want to evaluate your plans, but I will still know it's not promises, but ideas, thoughts and plans you'd like to do. I'll wait to argue the specifics when you're President.

And lastly, the NPR story on birth control. This is good news that respects the reproductive right of women to the whole range of choices. They deserve the choice, and no physician or specialist has the right to exercise their conscience and morality. Leave that at home. Practice medicine and have your concern that of your patient's, your basic responsibility as a medical professional.

Ok, I've had enough coffee, mentally I feel like this without any breakfast yet. Ok, I'll depart the premises.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tuesday's news

Ok, two days in a row. Why? Well, Monday was Sunday and Monday's news and thoughts and today is another day. And I get several newspapers at Starbucks to read with a sandwich and lunch snacks. And lo and behold, there were some interesting stuff in them thar newsprint. Really?

Some interesting reading at the USA Today. It's time the candidates stop the rhetoric and actually discuss substance. Soundbites are like old, stale candy, no one wants to hear them after a few bites.

Does the chiefs and leaders in the miltiary really support the troops? We've heard the stories about delaying the new personnel vehicles. And now a new one about the soldiers.

With all that a soldier experiences in battle today, you would think the Army would want the troops be in top shape physically and mentally. But then, maybe not. In the first 2-3 years of the war very few, if any, troops were tested for brain injuries from battle, such as explosions, routine vibrations from vehicles, etc. It seems our Army wanted to let the soldiers leave the service so they couldn't connect any future injuries with battle and get VA benefits.

Some selected tests show about 12% of soldiers have traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and of the 1.6 million troops who have served in Iraq, not counting those who served in Afghanistan, that's potentially about 200,000 soldiers with TBI. And only now is the Army reporting this failure. We've seen a repeated history of the Army not supporting the troops from Vietnam, Korea and the Gulf War to avoid prolonged health care for veterans.

This time, however, the news is out, and now it's time for action. By the Army.

It seems our trusty, dusty FBI, the watchdog for terrorists, has been feeding all the other agencies with incomplete and inaccurate information, about known terrorist - not updating the information, or suspected terrorist - not removing names found to be innocent people. All this money we've been providing the FBI and they can't get anything right?

This one I love. Being a geographer and always using maps. The Washington Post reports that sometimes GPS directions don't work, and can lead you in both bad or dangerous situations. It seems people are misplacing their common sense assuming the GPS is that right, and not bothering to have, let alone use, a map to verify the GPS is right.

Folks, maps have a nice function, use them, if only to check things.

This one is spooky, in a sense. Remember the history of Japan's manufacturing? Well, watch China follow that except compressed in time by an order of magnitude. Why? Japan had no manufacturing capability after WWII - remember we destroyed it. They started with the then latest technology, provided by the US, and in 20-25 years caught the US and Europe. And the rest is, as they say, history.

And they learned to move to and build in the US. Why is Toyota, Honda and Nissan here? Because they can and sell more and better cars. And now China, which has an industry built by US and European companies, again with the latest technology, under the assumption China build products under their license and for them, has been branching out with their own companies to equal and replace the US and European brands.

And? Well, they've discovered that moving to and building in the US for some products is better. Haier is now building high end refrigerators in a South Carolina plant. They produce more than twice the number of refrigerators than Whirlpool, mostly in the lowend market, but they're moving up the market scale. Any bets they'll at least catch the US companies in these markets? Think trucks and you have the game plan and results.

And we laughed at Chinese made products a few years ago, and now discover they make the majority of many types and lines of products for the world, especially toys, clothes, electronics, etc, and they're moving in cars, appliances, etc. Hang on to you hats folks, many jobs in the US in a decade or so won't be US companies but foreign, and especially Chinese.

Hey, don't blame me, I don't make this stuff up. It's in the 3-5 newspapers I read 4-5 days a week. I'd read more but they're not available in print form, except the Sunday editions printed Fridays. What a waste, who wants to sit on a paper for two days to thinks it's fresh? I'm one of those who like big, thick newspapers to spread out with coffee, food, and music in the background (ok NPR or something similar good too), and munch away on words and life.

So, that's the news of the day for now. I'm off on work and stuff of life. Parting jesture? I've uploaded the St. Patrick's Day parade photos.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Monday Thoughts II

Ok, I ranted a lot with the first post for Monday. Even when it's St. Patrick's Day, and even in paradise we like the Irish for their spirit and soul, so I'll park the anger for awhile. And while I did go to and photograph the Seattle St. Patrick's Day parade, I didn't do a good job this year. I totally misjudged last year's parade and photographed far too little of it. And this years didn't seem all that exciting. Maybe because it's still March and cold?

Anyway, that and the anniversary of the Iraq war was pretty much the news of the day. I'll leave it to the Sunday New York Times editorials which pummelled Bush pretty good, to me, and bad if you like George, to speak volumes. The guy is almost totally clueless and his staff is almost totally blind. The new Govenor of New York has more eyesight and vision than the people in the White House.

There's a new interesting book by Melody Petersen about drugs and drug companies. It's a reality check about our health care system and being manipulated by corporations. Makes me wonder where the government of the people, for the people and by the people has gone. Or have we opted out of being citizen and just want to get everything cheap, and really don't care anymore except how far is the nearest Walmart?

Harsh? Well,maybe, but it's meant to be. How long will it take before we discover we've lost our democratic republic?

Other thoughts? Not much.

Monday Thoughts

The Iraq war turns five this week. It was March 19, 2003 when US forces, albeit called the coalition of the willing later to make it appear it wasn't just US and British forces but some 15-plus other nation which amounted, with the British, to about 10% of the total forces. It was our war. And I'm sure there are now and will be more assessments about the runup to the war, the war and the post-war situation and circumstances. We all now know a lot from the many books out already and will be repeated in the books to come.

The war wasn't about WMD's, including biological, chemical and possibly nuclear weapons, the threat of attack from missiles and other delivery devices, the link between Al Qaeda and Saddham Hussein, and the connection with 9/11. We all know now none of this was ever true, and at best momentary illusions presented by George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the rest of the Administration to sell the invasion as protecting America and Americans.

The war was about a personal issue by a handful of conservative republicans to push a geoolitical agenda of establishing a permanent US presence in the Middle East, and to do that Saddham Hussein had to be overthrown and a pro-US government installed. How many times has the US government done that? We also know it was about oil, to have a US control over one of the world's largest oil reserves for US energy corporations with US military protection.

The war didn't have a post-war protection, occupation and rebuilding plan, except giving billions of dollars of taxpayers' money to Halliburtion in no-bid contracts to "rebuild" Iraq, except it was aimed at the oil industry and selected infrastructure related to the oil fields and industry. Everything else was less important, wasn't in the plan, or was the problem of the Iraqi people.

The war wasn't about the Iraqi people. George and company had decided from Iraqi ex-patriots that our invasion and occupation would be welcomed with open arms and peace and stability for bringing a new democratic republic would be a "piece of cake." George and company were totally blinded by their own arrogance and ignorance. They never stepped outside their own view to see how unrealistic it was, and to think how it would literally explode in their face.

The war was totally misrepresented and mismanaged from the first day of the occupation. And they never learned the basic lesson, that a military victory is for war, a civilian victory is for post-war. And even citing WWII George never saw why his policy and plan in Iraq wasn't the same. Our President was so filled with his own view of things, it bordered on a fantasy of his own making. And his cohorts were there to ensure him he was right.

It's the old story about the emperor and his clothes.

And now we know Iraq is another Korea where we're there with 3-4 permanent bases and an embassy and a significant number of troops for a long time. We can't leave and we're not welcome. And the next President will be faced with finding an answer to the disaster George will leave as his legacy. Iraq is his Bismark, the massive battle(ship) he thought would rewrite history, and it has, except it is a failure.

Why? Because after five years we still haven't learned it's not about us or the US, it's about the country, the nation and especially the people of Iraq. We have never learned that one fact and reality. We invaded their country, overthrew their leader, albeit a bad one, destroyed their land, devasted their infrastructure, dismantled their government, created a home for terrorists, incited long silent religious rivaleries and hatreds, caused millions to emigrate or be displaced, and so on.

We have little good to show for the five years, and blown hundreds of billions of dollars in the process, much of which is unaccounted. We've delivered hundreds of millions of dollars in arms and ammuntion to the Iraqi government, and much of that unaccounted. We've promised so much and have delivered so little. And all the successes to date won't change the facts and reality the many failues far outnumber the few successes.

If this had happened to any state in the US, we would be outraged and demand action to restore the safety, security, property, homes, lives, health, education, infrastructure and everything else back to better than it was. We would demand people be held accountable and justice for the people. So, why aren't we doing that now? Because it's Iraq? Because we don't think it's worth it? Because we still think it's all about terrorists and 9/11?

In the last five years there what have we really learned? Why are we still fighting a war that's is over and isn't about terrorists anymore? No? Yes, because now we seem now to want to make this war an issue of American pride. We've decided we can and will win no matter the cost, to our integrity, international reputation, public coffers, or whatever.

We want to justify the death of over 3,000 soldiers and the injury of tens of thousands. So why didn't we then and haven't done to date the same with Vietnam? Or Korea? Because we faced the reality and changed. So, how long will it take us for Iraq to learn and change? Or in five years will we be repeating the same story and believing the same lies about ourselves?

Remember the "Mission Accomplished" banner George had hung behind him on the carrier when he announced that "hostilities are over"? So, when will that really happen?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Thoughts

Ok, it's Wednesday through Friday thoughts from the news. It's raining in paradise, nearly 2 feet of new snow in the mountains, and the St. Patrick's day weekend, with a mass for peace and a parade. What's not to like inspite of the rain and cold?

Ok, the news.

What's with George? He still keeps citing his faith as a basis for his foreign policy. After seven-plus years as President and he hasn't learned international diplomacy doesn't include sticking your religious bias in the mix with other nations? He said in a recent speech to a Christian group his decision to remove Saddham Hussein was the right one because he beleived it. The war in Iraq wasn't about removing Saddham Hussein but the WMD's, connection he had with Al Qaeda, and 9/11. Bush and cohorts lied then and now he's, as usual, rearranging the truth to fit his faith.

No one disagrees Saddham was a bad guy, but there were then and still are more worse dictators and far worse than Saddham, but we didn't depose them with an invasion and occupation of their country. Is George really so blind he can't see the reality and truth of his decisions, that we've totally destroyed a country and nation and we've ruined our reputation in the world worse than any president in history?

George is one of those people, standing and preaching on street corners, you just want to get past and not hear them. Except the fear he commands the world's strongest and deadliest military, and he not afraid to us it as we've seen. What's next Iran?

But what's scarier than this is that his administration in their last year is doing more harm to everything in our government they can possibly do, especially if it helps industry and corporations. And it's not limited to rewriting regulations, but allowing exploraton in wilderness areas, reducing enforcement of pollution requirements, not prosecutinig corporate fraud and abuse, staffing agencies with political right wingers, not prosecuting civil rights cases, and on and on. And on and on. His administration is more dangerous in the last year than the previous seven.

It will take the next president at least two years to find everything he and his administration has done, and another two to four years to change it right, and our lifetime to recover.

Earmarks. Well, it seems George has actually done a good thing, but for the wrong reasons. While the Republicans allowed more earmarks in Congressional appropriations bills in the last 7 years than all the all the Congress sessions before, with George's approval and signature, he suddenly decided the Democrats can't control themselves, even after they reduced earmarks by 46% in one year. He wanted 50% and is angry at 46%?

Well, Congress is slowly deciding to actually make them public and embedded in appropriations bills than in attached letters and reports. Gee, honesty in Congress. What a concept. And under Democratic control too. Take note George, it wasn't your republicans but your opponents that did what you now condemn.

China. The US drops China from the list of the top ten human rights abusers. Gee, it's a surprise? We want better relations with them so we ignore their civil and human rights abuses to their own people? Even the State Department recognizes China's record is still "poor", they're willing to turn a blind eye in the name of political exediency?

Congress. They don't trust the American people to know. To know what they know. To know what they're doing in our name. To know what they'll decide what's best for us. Gee, I feel like a protected kid? But wait, they're our Congress. Yes, our Congress we elected to represent us and keep us informed. For the fifth time since 1825 and the first in 25 years they're holding private sessions.

Why do I get the impression we're slowly turning into a nation where the power elite want to become more and more secret except when they want to be elected by us, the very people they're supposed to represent. And they say they trust rating with the people is lower than the President's. Gee, seems right to me. George is one stupid idiot, Congress is 535 bumbling idiots. Which is worse?

Ozone. While the scientists argue for more restrictive ozone limits, lower than the existing limit, the EPA, under pressure from the White House, is raising the limit. And even when the Justice Department says it's illegal, the EPA is still pushing forward with the changes. When we need tighter regulations and lower limits on ozone, George doesn't think it's right. Gee, I wonder if he'll feel safe from skin cancer cutting brush at his crawford ranch? Or does he only think it effects the penguins at the poles?

This one I love. Those ianything devices are being embedded with computer viruses, introduced in the manufacture of them for the US companies. And for now it's accidental or inadvertent, or so they say. Like those digital photo frames. So, do you really trust what you connect to your computer?

Southwest Airlines. Removing 38 jets from service as their company was found to have inadequate inspection, service and repair work records on many of their planes, the CEO says, "We're sorry." What don't you know it's not about the customers, but about the corporate profit, and if they can save on service, they will, and the FAA doesn't have the staff to monitor the airlines. Why is that?

Will you think about the plane you travel on next time, wondering when it was last inspected, serviced, and if necessary, repaired, or will you think about if they decided to forego some inspections, service and repairs to save a little more money per management's decision? Will you feel safe and trust the airline?

Enough said for a week. Hey, it's the St. Patrick's Day weekend and day (next Tuesday). Enjoy life as the Irish do. What's not to like about a few good Irish beers at a pub with friends? Ok, just watch yourself going home.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sunday thoughts

Ok, another Sunday, and ever so slowly spring is coming to paradise. In the lowlands anyway. With the above normal snowpack and weeks before snowmelt normally starts, winter is still in the mountains with promises of more in the near future. Ok, enough about the weather.

How about Microsoft? Interesting article in the New York Times today about Vista - requires login. Even the senior managers at Microsoft had more than enough problems with Vista that they redid the marketing strategy from "Vista Ready" to "Vista Capable", meaning not all PC can be upgraded to Vista. In short, either don't upgrade or buy a new computer and be ready to do some more work making it work. And not everything will work.

Gee, maybe you just can't make a silk desktop software package out of a bad operating system. And maybe should whisper "Edsel" to them?

How about George? His veto of the Congressionally passed bill on interrogation techniques and other issues. It seems he wants to go down in history as the most monterous President in history for human rights, especially ignoring our history of following the Geneva Conventions. What doesn't he understand about fair treatment of human beings?

He has to be the worst President at understanding international diplomacy, human rights, and prisoners of war. We should set the standard for the world than stoop to the lowest level. When will we learn we can't keep being dictators on global politics and we have to lead with integrity. But then we never had anyway, so it would be a new thing for us. Not? Read your history on the number of countries we've overthrown with our military or supporting military rulers or dictators.

Don't buy that? Try Chile, Pakistan, Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc. and now George sets a new standard for this country, forgetting our past and ignoring our future.

How about the universe. It's now 13.73 billion years old, plus or minus 120,000 years. Just a few lifetimes. An error margin longer than modern human history. And we think we're that important in the universe?

Iraq. Congress wants to know where all the billions of oil money has gone. Because it hasn't gone to the country or the people, but foreign banks. Yup, all the money we're spending on the reconstruction including the oil industry, and the Iraqis are pocketing most of the money and almost all the profits into personal accounts.

Gee, why am I not surprised? We're talking $100 Billion gross revenues in 2007-08. So how much is missing? No one seems to know.

Parting jesture? Melody Gardot and cats.

I'm off for the week, so please have a good week.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

WSR - New blog

I updated my Mt. Rainier National Park Web resources with a new blog about the different work I'm doing on or related to my photography guide to the NP. As in the introduciton, it's just a start with no clear focus on where it will go, but I wanted an avenue to mentally wander. So, this blog is it. I hope you enjoy it and you can always use the e-mail links to send questions or suggestions.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Monday Thoughts

Ok, the storms are still here in paradise, with intermittent periods, albeit too short, of sun and warm. But it is paradise and it is still winter, and why we have water for trees and the green in the trees throughout the year.

Anyway, the news. First and most importantly, listen to the story on the cost of the war in Iraq on Fresh Air. This war, conservatively estimated, will cost us $3,000,000,000. Yes, 3 Trillion dollars. The interviewer talks with the authors of the book "The 3 Trillion Dollar War" and their analysis is really frightening for future generations. And ole George will be retired and living well on the public dole.

The Department of Defense has hidden the real costs of the war in a complex accounting system that has failed every audit and especially relating actual costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The DOD pushes other costs to other agencies, such as veterans care and benefits, or to other program in DOD, like, equipment repairs and replacements. And DOD isn't providing true data and information about the death and injuries.

Listening to the interview really makes me madder at Congress, but more so with the DOD and the Vice President and President for pushing us into a senseless war. In the end they ask the basic question, what could we have done with the $3 Trillion instead of throwing it down a rathole. The only industry that has gained by the money is the military-industrial complex, and the rest of us are paying the bills.

Why isn't this being discussed in the campaign, the real costs of his needless war? Why are we so enthralled in fighting an almost imaginary enemy - remember the total number of Al Qaeda fighters in the world is less than a small town against the world premier military - and as an imaginary war - on terrorism. Remember we've been attacked by them several times before 9/11 and we didn't react with such hatred toward a nation and a people that had nothing to do with 9/11.

Remember the man we're searching for is Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, which wasn't in Iraq before our invasion and occupation - we created the need and we helped fund and supply it with the money we gave Iraq's government ($12 Billion unaccounted) and with the arms with provided their military and police forces (200,000 weapons and small arms missing). Al Qaeda is just 5% of the fighting in Iraq, which wasn't there before 9/11, and we created the opportunity for the other 95% of the insurgents and intra-sect fighting.

Ok, I'm angry, but then why isn't the rest of the country? Personally I think history will not the Bush administration as the beginning of the end of the power of the US and the war in Iraq the chief cause of our decline in international power and stature. China will emerge as the new global power but with their own problems and their own demise, and Russia will reemerge as a global power, althought smaller from the many new independent nations.

And the European Union will also emerge to balance the threesome with their own ideas and agenda. And history will show our own ignorance and arrogance was the cause of our decline.

Ok, enuf there. Onward.

I like this one. The judge who the ordered the shutdown of the Website publishing sensitive and confidential documentsl, Wikileaks, reversed his decision as it was discovered his order didn't really do anything. The Website has a non-US mirror site (a duplicate Website outside the US which is outside US laws and courts). Ah, the technology is faster than the laws and our stupid Congress hasn't caught up with the freedom people have now with the Internet and global village.

Damn, just gotta love free speech, embarrassing as it is for those who want to control and/or steal it.

Did you know the power outage in Florida last week was caused by one technician working on a local power station? A single individual brought down a significant part of a power grid for a city. Wow is an understatement. Talk about sending an advertisement to terrorists. Take notes. It's called the domino effect, bring down one local power station and you just might cause a snowball throughout the network.

I used to work with satellite data collection system, and we always focused on the single points of failure, to find ways to reduce these. In power grids, however, it's likely there are so many single points of failure and so many ways to cause their failure, it's hard to eliminate all of them. And in the end, it always gets back to one thing, human beings, and down to one thing, trust.

I'll bet that technician never makes that mistake again?

Well, that's it for Sunday and Monday thoughts. I'm off for awhile. Parting jesture? How about John Travolta's home in Florida. He lives on a different plane than we do, literally and figuratively. And you think your neighbors car is loud? Try a commercial jet.