Saturday, April 26, 2008

It's about the money

After reading the newspapers Friday I updated my waterfall map Web page for Mt. Rainier NP. This includes all the waterfalls listed in books and Websites that all but the most diehard off-trail scrambler would want to hike to and see that is known. There are still a lot of small waterfalls, all unnamed, which people will find on their hikes in the NP. And I still have to review the sites with the latest map along with updating the list of sites Web page.

Anyway, the news and the subject?

Did you know that all of the military equipment contracts are overdue and over budget? Like that's news?

That's the word from the GAO when reviewing the Department of Defense spending. The contractors know it's about getting the contract and just show progress for the development of it toward actual production. The average delivery date is 20+ months from the contracted date, and the average cost overrun is 25-50% when the actual production product is delivered.

This doesn't include the additonal production costs which raises the purchase price. Here the same thing applies, get to the production version where you can simply raise the price to overcome any production delays or fixes. None of the contractors delivered a product on time and on budget. And this was shown in the Navy's new warship.

The two prototypes contracted for with Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics are both late and over budget, some of the problems related to the designers/developers decisions than the contract. And we're still paying for it. The goal is to test the two and pick one for the Navy's shallow water attack ship. They plan to buy 55 of these ships. That will be at least $30 Billion when production actually starts.

So why hasn't Congress fixed this ripoff of taxpayers money?

The same thing has been applied to the contrators working in Iraq. None of the equipment contracts are on time or budget and all of the service contracts allows adding costs to recover additional expenses due to unforseen circumstances. In short, the same thing, once they get the contract, and remember almost all are no-bid contracts, they're handed a checkbook of blank signed checks and told to fill in the amount as they go.

And add to that they haven't filed let alone paid corporate taxes on any of these contracts means it's all actual expenses and profit. They bid in taxes and then pocket it, even when it's still due. A GAO review found the DOD and IRS never pursued the these companies to pay back taxes since the start of the war.

And it's not limited to the money we're giving the Iraqi government. To date we've given $20 Billion to them just for training and equipping their army, security forces and police. In the newest funding request Bush is asking for $108 Billion for all costs with $1B for Iraqi forces.

And the reviews of the Iraqi troops of any type shows they're years away from any level of readiness that will allow them to conduct their own missions. This isn't consistent and overall but more worse than better. They also seem to think with the never ending credit card they can keep charging and we, the taxpayers, will keep paying. Meanwhile they're getting rich from oil production, enought to buy nearly $1 Billion in arms from Serbia.

So, the moral of the story. It's the old adage, "It's all about the money."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mid-week Thoughts

It's Thursday, and here in paradise, we're still waiting for spring to arrive. It's slowly getting warmer, albeit after a week of record lows recently along with the record for the latest day of snow in the lowlands of paradise. Yes, snow at sea level, and it stuck in some inland areas too. In April. Although it's not new to Coloradans and Denverites, where the record latest date is Memorial Day weekend and the earliest is Labor Day weekend, it's new to us here.

And while the snowfall normally levels off in early April and the snowpack is starting to melt at low elevations, slowly increasing and rising in elevation, we're continuing to get new snowfall and more snowpack. That's the view at Paradise at Mt. Rainier NP above. We have about 20 feet there. That's almost 50% above normal. Not a record but in the top few for sure. And if the snowmelt is delayed and maybe slower than normal, we'll be seeing snow on the trails well into June and perhaps July for higher elevations. That's not a record either, just interfers with the hiking season.

Ok, enough. We're not whining, although a few sunny days would be nice. Cool is ok, just sunny would be appreciated.

The news?

Well, when do politicians say a lie isn't a lie? When it's a false statement. Jimmy Carter said the the Secretary of State Rice was "mistaken" when she told him they didn't want him to meet with Hamas, you know the elected government of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She and her staff repeatedly said they advised the former President because they considered Hamas a terrorist organization. An elected government too. Mr. Carter said the Deputy Secretary of State, Ms. Rice refusted to meet with Mr. Carter, didn't advise him against it in any form or manner.

So, we can lie but politicians make false statements or mistruths?

Listening to Ms. Rice over the years as the Secretary of State and then National Security advisor to Bush, I've learned she is very intelligent but also not very bright. She is one of those people who can talk about something without actually saying anything. You get to the end of her statements and go, "Huh?" Really. Don't watch her but listen, just listen. She either says nothing to twists things to say nothing.

When she spoke one time about meetings with Middle East leaders she spoke of the meetings but not of the content. She talked about the framework and the conduct of the meetings, like they were important, like, "We had a very cordial meeting about the issues and agreed to speak about the issues in future meetings." She does the one thing I argued in meetings when I was a senior technical manager.

I made a notepad with the saying I found, "Don't mistake discussion for answers." printed in big letter across the top, and kept the pad in plain view of everyone. This is the same thing Ms. Rice does, she talks a good story but there's no story in the story. She talks about a story but not the story itself. She mistakes her presence for importance. It's all a self-delusion of a person and her words.

That's why the Lebanonese government uninvited her to their homeland after she meet with the isreali government before they attacked and invaded Palestinians in southern Lebanon. She tried to convince the Lebanonese government the US were behind them too, and they saw through her words to reply, "Goodbye and don't come back." Every leader in the world must think she's a joke, pander to her then send her on her way with some verbal political candy.

Why have we elected a President who's blind to reality and the truth, a Vice President who is worse than Darth Vadar on his worst day, a Secretary of Defense (Rumsfeldt) who had no ears, only a mouth that never stopped, and a Secretary of State who can't understand anything beyond what's she told and sells herself than solutions? I don't get it.

Ok, enough. Onward.

Did you know the Government Accounting Office found that 60,000 federal contractors owe $7.7 Billion in back taxes and $1 Billion in health care benefits to employees. The IRS estimates that about $300 Billion in taxes every year don't get collected or paid. Your tax dollars not at work.

Did you know the Veterans Administration lied, oops misreported, to Congress the number of suicide attempts by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Ok, you say, they fudged the numbers a little. They reported 800 attempted suicide. According to an audit, internal e-mails and reports showed 12,000 attempted suicides. Big difference.

Why would they do that if not to reduce the impact of the effect of these war on our troops. What happened to support our troos?

The Union of Concerned Scientists said that more than half the scientists at the EPA have been pressured by supervisors, aka. political appointees, to rewrite reports to be less critical or even positive about negative effects and impacts of their findings or got involved in or interferred witth their research. And these are the same studies and reports the Administration has been using to assert their view that things aren't as bad as people, aka other scientists, report.

When is a scientific misstatement or mistruth not a lie?

This one I love. Not. Did you know that many debt collection agencies are moving work to India? It's cheaper, costing only about a quarter of staff in the US. But the serious side of this is that along with getting the work, they're getting your credit information too. Your credit information. In India which does not adhere to US privacy laws or have any of their own. Your credit history is an open book to anyone there.

I've never been bothered with credit problems but this is serious and Congress should step in to fix this.

This I really do love. The generals and senior officials in Iraq say that 73% of the attack on US soldiers are committed by Shiite militia, supplied by the US gov't through the Iraqi government and by Iran. And subtracting the percentage done by Sunni militia, criminals and other groups, that leaves about 5-10% of the attacks on US soldiers by Al Qaeda. The same Al Qaeda that, according to Cheney and Bush, are the real enemy in Iraq and responsible for everything.

When is a fact not a fact? When the President decides to ignore it, and make up his own facts.

The way things are going, have you considered we'll be at war with Pakistan in the near future? The generals in Afghanistan want to attack the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan against the decisions of the Pakistani government, and even the President we support and pay for with $6 Billion in miitary aid (2002-06, last known numbers). We're currently using drones to attack sites in Pakistan but now they want troops on the ground there.

What don't they understand about history? Think Laos?

And now they want to increase the forces to do this, except they don't know where they'l come from in the Army. They can't reduce forces in Iraq, and many troops have done two tours already, along with half the National Guards and Reserves with at least one tour. So, where? Stop-loss orders.

Secretary Gates is issuing new stop-loss order, up from 8,540 May 2007 to 12,235 March 2008. Nearly a 50% increase, which is projected to increase as more and more mid-level enlisted troops are wanting to leave the service than reenlist or stay to retirement. The endless war is becoming the Army's worst enemy. Not just disenfranchised troops, but departing ones.

The answer, always in the corner of people's mind? The draft. Any bets?

Well, George set a record. The lowest approval rating in history. Only 28% like his work, 69% don't. Not just disapprove but think his tenure is a failure. And the numbers are slightly higher for the war. This was his war and it's home to roost George. How does it feel, or do you even know enough to feel?

Did you know when Congress gave the Homeland Security Administration the rights to build the border wall they forget to say it had to be fair enforced to landowners? So Secretary Chertoff is pushing the wall through the middle and especially low income landowners but not through the private resorts or rich lanndowners. Own a few acres and you'll see a wall, own a big resort and you won't be bothered.

Be a political donor with land along the US-Mexico border and they won't build a wall through or along your property. So the illegal immigrants will know where to cross the country, the resorts and private estates. Do you think Google earth will show the wall to make crossing easier?

Such is the news so far this week. I've updated my waterfall map and latest access Web pages. Have a good weekend.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Thoughts

That's about the way I'm thinking now after working on a Web page for 4+ days now. Everything I get something finished I see something to add or improve on it, and I create new problems. The problems are that I barely know javascript and Google Map coding, and have to resort to adapting scripts I find. I can follow the logic and follow - the way I think, which is learn by seeing and doing examples - but I having problems debugging where my script isn't working.

It's the old adage, a little knowledge is dangerous, but so far I got it working from scratch and knowing nothing. Oh yeah, it's at Mt. Rainier NP Waterfalls, which now has a drop down list. I've updated the information about each waterfall for access.

Ok, the news of the day.

So, did you hear the story of the driver of a charter bus of high school students who chose to follow his GPS device to the Seattle Park Arboretum, except he forgot you can't drive a 11+ foot high bus through a 9 foot bridge underpass? To quote, "The driver told police he did not see the flashing lights or yellow sign posting the bridge height."

The story is in the Seattle PI. Makes you wonder what the driver was thinking approaching a bridge with a big yellow sign and flashing lights?

Can't give up on Bush. It seems he's learned the art of political football, punting all his problems into, sometimes well into, the future, some beyond the next President. He's pushing all the environmental protection and climate change goals to 2012 and beyond. It seems he's starting his retirement early by simply ignoring anything that isn't on his agenda. And you thought he cared about us?

Did you know the Governmental Accounting Office (GAO) has reported the $6 Billion we've given Pakistan to fight terrorists, especially in the Tribal areas has yielded nothing. Well, except for a lot of soldiers pay and equipment purchases for the Pakistani Army and money to the individual for their "fair" share of being a leader. Short of that, nothing, according to the GAO.

Gee, the President got a lot of free press about it to show he's fighting terrorism and terrorists with an ally. Gee, I feel safer now that the President thinks Pakistan is our ally.

Ok, Bush again. He had the EPA rewrite the regulations on cooling water returned by power generation plants, to relax the standards by which industry has to get an exemption based on a cost-benefit analysis. Except the US Appeals Court overruled them to set aside the rules as invalid on their face. The Court told the EPA to restore the old rules. So the EPA is appealing the decsion to the Supreme Court along with the Industry, and the White House has said it will support industry's position.

Gee, I feel better knowing the President protects the environment. Don't you?

I kinda' been following the Wall Street Journal editorials since Rupert Murdoch bought the company and the paper. And ever so slowly I'm seeing the paper go farther and father to the right, even criticizing Bush for not doing enough about some issues, like Iran, Iraq, the Palestinians (to support Isreal), and on and on. So much for a good newspaper, or at least the editorial staff are nuts. The rest of the paper's staff are decent, so far as I've read.

I have more news stories cut out lying next to me, but my brain is done for the week to rant or vent about the world outside my window anymore. And paradise? We'll, we're getting a record, the latest date of snow in Seattle and the area. Yes, it's snowing all around the Puget Sound, even now outside my window!

Parting jesture? Interesting photo gallery.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday thoughts

Ok, it's Sunday afternoon. I've had my breakfast, read the newspapers and even had a nap. I photographed the Daffodil Parade in Tacoma yesterday, and did a lot of walking for the nearly four-plus hours I was there. I downloaded the images and they're sitting in Adobe Bridge for now. I'm not a good judge of my images immediately afterward, and usually let them sit a day or more, longer if a quick review showed problems with the subject, exposure, etc.

In this case, like the St. Patrick's Day parade photos, I didn't have my brain fully plugged in during the shoot, and found I kept changing the EV (exposure value) control on the camera. It's the big thumbwheel knob on the back. I often rest my thumb against the back of the camera and during the parade found the images suddenly showing darker than I expected, which not paying attention, showed the EV set to the negative side.

Anyway, it's a simple adjustment in Photoshop, but since I pride myself on the best images from the camera, to minimize the basic corrections in Photoshop, it's angering to see underexposed images in the gallery. And there is a problem with exposure metering where shooting in changing light conditions, overcast, sunlight, buildings shadows, etc. makes the right expousre a little difficult. And yes, I could shoot raw and have more latittude in the post-processing, but that's a huge waste of flash cards when you can get the image 95+% right in the camera. Or so I keep saying but learning to the contrary.

Anyway, that's the story so far. And the news?

Well, for one, a question. Why in the world does company charge for a Web browser? And why does one charge for updates? I don't get this logic. I like to have a bunch of different browsers to see how the Web pages on my Website look, to see the differences, however small. I don't design Web pages for or with Microsoft's Internet Explorer because you can't account for all the flavors, plugins, and user settings.

Microsoft set the market standard by providing the browser for free which Netscape had to follow to continue to exist. All of them followed except a few smaller companies who somehow think they can sell a better product. Ok, I bought OmniWeb on the recommendation of someone, for $15 no less. But then they announced an update, for $5. Not an upgrade but an update no less. And now I see a company sells Prairirefire for $6.

Both are these are really big, "Huh?" to me. Do they really make enough to charge for their browser? Ok, maybe a first time buyer like me, but still it's a question of why when there are good browsers available free. But then for updates? We're not talking selling a whole new upgrade, such as version 9 to 10, but an update, version 9.26 to 9.27, and to fix some problems in the older version.

I already pay for some updates and upgrades with some software package I routinely use, and yes, I'm mad at those companies too which charge for routine updates or upgrades. It's one thing when it's a huge photo editing or similar package and another when 95+% of the package functions and features didn't change. The former I can understand and the latter seems counterproductive for marketing, unless they think if you're stupid enough to buy their first version, you'll buy the updates and upgrades.

Oh well, sorry OmniWeb, I paid once to learn how stupid I was, and while your browser is good, it's not worth the continual paying for normal updates. Apple gives Safari away for free, as does Mozilla, Firefox and Opera.

Iraq? I couldn't say it any better than today's New York Times editorial about Bush's War. And? How about the fact the Iraqi government contracted to buy arms, including helicopters, missiles, jets, etc. from Serbia for $833 Million.

Our military won't provide more than small (handheld) arms and weapons to the Iraqi forces, partly because we don't yet fully trust them and fear many of them will be sold to or stolen for the insurgents, militias and other forces fighting us. Like Duh, they already have to the tune of 200,000. And now we discover the Iraqi government is cash rich with oil money and US aid. How many Billions of dollars in cash have been given Iraqis? At last count, upwards of $15-20 Billion so far, much of which hasn't been accounted.

And now the Iraqis don't trust the US to supply the arms and weapons they want so they're using their own and our money to buy that and more from lesser nations and arms dealers willing to sell arms to anyone. So what kind of nation are we trying to build? Or more so, do we really understand the nation we're working with as a partner?

Maybe it's time to take our checkbook and go home?

Other news? The Olympics. I won't touch the Olympic torch issue, because people, to me, seem to mistake the symbolism of the torch to China. The torch is about the Olympics. We can't compress the entire political problems of China in a athletic event. Remember the IOC gave the Olympics to China, it's up to them to explain why and what failed. And it's up to the leaders of nations to explain their diplomacy with China over the last decade or two.

Don't make the torch the symbol for everything. Focus on the real issue than a symbol.

Climate change. I was listening to the stories about "less water" everywhere. No. They don't get it. There won't be less water, only the planetary spatial rearrangement of it. We, or nature, can't lose water, only change the distribution of it over the earth and change the forms in solid, liquid or gas. Any loses of water over land or any increases from glacial melting will be taken up by the oceans.

We may lose fresh water but we'll gain sea water. And we haven't determined in the models the changes the increased ocearn size and water may have on evaporation patterns and in turn precipitation patterns. There are huge feedback effects in the global climate processes that the models can't fully predict. There won't be runaway climate warming because history has shown the feedback at some point will create a cooling pattern.

Stay tuned, if you're still here.

Parting jesture? Interesting photo gallery.

Parting jesture?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Congressional Staffers

The Washington Post has an article today (4/9/08) about an Internet company LegiStorm, publishing financial informatiion on Congressional staffers, which has angered many of those staffer and want the company shutdown. But, as the article goes on to say, the very same information is available as part of the public record each staffer must file as part of the transparency of government.

And while I question putting all this iinformation on the Internet, I have to agree that if it's available to anyone at the office of records, I don't see the problem making it readily available to everyone, especially those outside Washington D.C. And while these people are public, they're also some of the most powerful people to Congressional Representives and Senators, and if they don't want to the spotlight on their personal life, don't work there.

Personally, I think this is cool. Maybe a bit too much information available, such as personal account information, but I don't have a problem knowing their salary, other income, jobs of relatives, etc. It only puts them in the spotlight we all should see. And if they whine, what's that about being in the kitchen (of politics)?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Buying Time

Reading Bush about the economy and the stimulus (tax rebate) package he pushed for, I get the impression it's not that much different than the weather at Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park (photo), one big snow job after another, and before you know it, you're so deep in snow you can't find your feet, let alone the ground far beneath your feet.

And the road (far right edge of photo) is buried under the recent snowfall Bush gave the press recently, which was, "Give things time." Time for what? Or is it really that George knows that if he can get into the fall with only a minor recession, and even if the Republicans take a hit in the election and lose the Presidential election and seats in Congress, he's a lame duck, and overcooked at that. He can simply skate into another winter saying, "Wow, this snow is sure beautiful."

Anyway, I don't know any better, and even far worse, than anyone about the future of our economy. I only see things from my corner and window in paradise, and only my annuity, it's all I have. I earned it working 32 years in the military and civil service and 7 years in odd jobs before the miitary and between the military and civil service in college and graduate school. And I'm working on a second career at my pace, slow but enjoyable and affordable.

That's about all I gleened from the newspapers. I read a lot of articles, but much of it already too much in the news or lost in the blur of world events. Is a story about events or people in a country anything more than just a snapshot of one place or person(s) for a moment in time? What does the rest of the world think of us from news in their newspapers about the US? Do they equate Bush with everyone else?

I doubt it, but it only reminds one to read the news with some mental salt.

In other news, the National Parks Conservation Association issued a report on National Parks for sale. It's worth the read to understand that $1.9 Billion to buy all the major land holdings within or adjacent to National Parks is cheap compared to the Iraq-Afghanistan wars. And the land isn't being bought on credit as the wars are. It's about a week of the Iraq war to buy all the land.

Think about that, all the money going down the drain into the national debt and our creditors, instead of helping Americans with jobs, health care, education, environmental safety, infrastructure, etc. But I've harped away on this issue. We'll wake up in a few years to realize the folly of the Iraq war from the onset with nothing but a destroyed country in an endless civil war and all the money gone, until the payments come due to China and other countries.

So it goes. As the snow fall, the snowpack increases, and eventually it melts. At least snow looks good.

NPCA Report on NPS land

The National Parks Conservation Association has issued a report, America's Heritage Land for Sale, (PDF), describing the current status of the possible loss of land within or adjacent to National Parks which should be incorporated into the National Park(s). This is not a thing that would be nice, it is a thing that embodies America, it's past, present and future.

The report only focuses on ten examples, one of which is land adjacent to Mt. Rainier NP along the Carbon River in the northwest corner of the Park. The inclusion of this land protects the upper Carbon River corridor into the National Park, preserve the forest and riverine environment and wildlife, and help ensure the fisheries and water quality of the Carbon River.

The report makes it clear this is only the start of a longer plan to acquire as much as possible of the enclaved land in National Parks and all appropriate lands adjacent to the Parks which helps preserve America's heritage for future generations. And sadly in these time of fiscal restraint by the Bush administration with federal agency budgets and unrestrained spending, adding to the national debt, for war, this isn't about land versus national security, it's about who we are as a nation and the value we have for our land.

We need these new and additional lands for the protection and preservation of our National Parks. Most American believe it, NPCA Press Release, and American's should let their elected representatives and especially the President know our views. This isn't something we want to look back on and think of what we could or should have done then, when we had the chance. We have the chance now.

So let's exercise our freedom of speech and raise our voice for America.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sunday thoughts

copyright David Horsey

Ok, it's Sunday April 6th. I've read the sunday newspapers, watch my, yes mine because fans are like that, very possessive, Seattle Mariners blew a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, to Baltimore no less. And that's three loses in a row to the Baltimore too. They're a very frustrating team to watch, and especially going 8 innings of great baseball to have the closer blow it.

Anyway, I thought today's editorial cartoon (above) by David Horsey Seattle PI newspaper is excellent. It's self-explanatory.

Or if you don't know, our President "served" in the Air National Guard (ANG) during the Vietnam war, first in the Texas ANG and then in the Georgia ANG, except he was attending university at the time as well as working political campaigns for republican candidates, and no one in either Air National Guard can remember him or did he ever show up for weekend and annual duty, not even for the required physicals.

His father pulled strings to get him in the ANG to avoid active duty, pulled strings to get him transferred to help on campaigns, and then pulled strings to get his discharge when he was in university in the face of his inattendence. All the offiical records have been deemed classified, but it's easy to see his service is a lie and a fraud. Nothing more.

Ok, enough on George. Onward.

The Census Bureau has cancelled plans to use the new high tech census wireless communications recorders. Both sides seem to be at fault, the Bureau for never had experience with large contracts and routinely changing the specifications during the life of the contract, and the company for typical government contracting, bid low and raise the cost after you win it and progess. Even cutting the number of recorders to 1/4 didn't help, the cost still went up. The whole thing simply got out of hand and is costing the taxpayers $3 Billion.

Amazing what the price of pencil and paper goes for these days?

The peace sign is 50 years old. It was originally designed for the No-Nuke protests in England where the symbol was meant to identify their view of US nuclear bomber bases. The peace advocates and protesters latched on to it. And the designer didn't copyright it so it's free. Gee, peace and all it's symbols are free. What a concept, cheaper than war.

Two researchers have broken the Aztec math code for land surveying and measurements. All these centuries later too. Geographer Barbara Williams and mathematician Maria del Carmen Jorge y Jorge have solved the connections between the symbols (hand, arm, heart rod, arrow and bone) for distance and area in the Aztec land survey. The Aztec developed it for irregular shaped parcels of land which used fractions for shorter lengths.

Do we really need a missile defense program in Europe? NATO agreed to Bush's plan to install two anti-missile defense sites in Eastern Europe, over the objections to Russia. But the logic is to protect us, yes us here in the US, from missiles from Iran, yes Iran. Well, we have secret prisoons under the extraordinary rendition program operated by the CIA in Eastern Europe, so I guess this is normal for a paranoid President.

I hope the next President cancels the program. It's unnecessary and too costly.

The GAO conducted their annual evaluation of 295 Defense Department military contracts for equipment, and discovered all over buget, to the tune of $1.6 Billion, all overdue, at least 2+ years past their deadlines, and all don't do what's specified in the contract. Gee, the new industrial-military complex?

Is this the new government? And ideas who's paying the bills?

MRAP's are saving soldiers' lives. That's good. No one doubts the benefits that no soldier has yet been killed in an MRAP in Iraq. But that's only half the story. These are $1.5 Million vehicles. The enemy knows that all they have to do is disable them to be successful. The fewer of them there means more to repair, if possible, or buy new ones. They's using a few hundred dollars IED to destroy a $1.5 Million personnel vehicle.

Who has the cost-benefit ratio here? And what's the price of a soldier? I'm not being critical, just trying to understand they if we save 3-4 soldiers in one MRAP, worth the cost to me, but at $400-500,00 for each soldier. At what point do we decide the cost is prohibitive to stay in Iraq?

We waging this war on credit, so it's hard for people to see the money, but the future generations will be paying the bills, including interests, and especially with China who holds 40% of the US debt. Is that what we want?

This one I really have to say, "WTF?" The Homeland Security Administration has decided Boise, Idaho is the highest terrorist risk, the only one west of Houston, Texas. Really. Boise, Idaho, the city no one knows what's there to even be a target for terrorists. Even the local law enforcement officials are asking, "WTF?"

And you wonder where HSA's mind is at? Obviously not in reality that any of normal people know. Can you picture terrorists planning a high risk, high publicity attack on the US, and out of the blue they decide it's in Boise, Idaho. Can you imagine Osama bin Laden's leader listening to this plan?

That's hard to follow up on. Have a good week.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Thursday's Thoughts

It's still spring and the road to paradise is open (near right side of image), and that's over 19 feet of snow, which is about a third above normal (graph). The snow peaked about a week ago and is now going through diurnal melting-freezing, which you can just see in the streamflow graph (Nisqually River near National).

Ok, enough about paradise. The news?

Starbucks. I wrote they were buying Clover Equipment Co. in Seattle, makers of $8-12,000 coffee makers used in some highend coffee cafes. Well, they did buy the company and announced the company will only make their equipment for Starbucks, and not available by other baristas, cafes and restaurants. I've read differing reports about the coffee maker itself and the results, and I can't say either way because I've never had coffee from one.

But I do think it's rather presumptive of Starbucks to stop selling the equipment to non-Starbuck customers, not a smart longterm business strategy. It will only put other companies in the business of their own machines to those customers, and probably lose some customers as a decision of conscience about corporations. Like me. I can't avoid Starbucks, and while I choose other cafes or baristas over Starbucks, I now may think twice now about buying coffee from them.

Onward. Torture. Yikes, but the reality is that before the Iraq war the Office of Legal Council in the Justice Department issued two memo authorizing torture, specifically defining it as anything less than "death, organ failure or permanent damage." In short, our leaders, the Justice Department and the Defense Department didn't just turn a blind eye to it, as seen in Abu Ghraib (prison), they condoned and implicitly encouraged it.

They built a culture around so anyone in the military and CIA can use it with impunity. What were all these supposedly bright people thinking about what's good for the US where this degree torture is also good for other nations, groups or people to conduct on our soldiers? Did they think the Geneva Convention only applies when it's our soldiers?

NATO. I really do wonder if Bush is either arrogant, stupid or blind. I don't know which, but he has the guts to stand there and tell anyone what they should do for the benefit of the US, and refuse to listen, let alone concede, others can and should have the right to do that to us. He thinks the world is for the US' interests and nothing else, and he, as the leader of the "free world" (a debateable issue after 9/11), can tell everyone what is right.

I know from the news Bush isn't happy with NATO's role in Afghanistan, and especially their very small, limited role in Iraq. So what doesn't he understand they have a right to do that, even against our objections? Does he think everyone else thinks he's a visionary to offer salient ideas of the future? Or maybe he's just the blind street peddler preaching from a soapbox with religous fervor about other relgious zealots wanting to kill him and destroy his way of life?

This you gotta wonder. A Chinese spy has been operating in the US defense world for over twenty years. I'm sure a lot of people are slapping their foreheads wondering what has been compromised.

The upshot? Well, they've been preaching about the Chinese spy threat for years, and now we know it's been a several decade issue that we've simply overlooked. When you're the target, it's easy to lose track of all those aiming at you, until they hit you where it hurts. And then you discover how blind you've been.

Parting jesture? None really. A good friend and spouse lost two of her three cats within a week to illnesses. It's hard knowing an animal can be so sick or ill there is nothing you can do but help them die, more quickly and humanely than nature would. I don't have answers for losing pets. Only sorrow and sadness.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Spooky Thoughts and Reality

Ok, I got ahead of myself yesterday, and should have waited for today for some really interesting stuff. What? What's so interesting it couldn't wait a day? Like, Yeah Dude. Or somesuch stupid, off-hand response by someone sitting in front of a computer with a dumb look on their face, like "WTF, Dude". Ok, onward.

I've been listening to WHYY's (NPR) radio show Fresh Air. You should listen to Wednesday's (4/2/08) show about the Bush Adminstration's illegal warrentless wiretap (NSA) program, and Tuesday's (4/1/08) show about Osama bin Laden and the bin Laden family, it's history, buildup to be one of the richest in the world, and its connection to the Bush family.

There is a lot there to absorb, with the author Steve Coll of "The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in The American Century" and with author Eric Lichtblau of "Bush's Law: The Remaking of American Justice". It wakes you up to the world about what's going on all around you when you're not paying attention.

They are paying attention, and likely to you, if only just in passing. What's the best case scenarios for anyone? Be a joke to NSA's surveillence of you. No one pays attention to someone funny except as a joke.

On top of that, how about the article in the Washington Post about intelligence centers around the country consolidating personal information about everyone. So next time a law enforcement officer, detective or some such person talks to you and says, "We know all about you.", you can probably bet it's true.

The trick here is simply act as if you are public so when confronted with the information, you can pull a Cheney, "So?" - the comment he made when asked about the public disapproval rating (66%) of the war in Iraq.

This one is interesting. You may not even be able to walk down the street anymore, lest the electronic information about you in your wallet or billfold. There's something to being hermit?

Ok, on a ending but still significant note, Julie Sweeney's blog. She's not scary or spooky, but way cool in many ways. Some of her work I could leave, but much of what she says is alright with me, and it's funny in the way it makes you stop and think. And that's even more cool. Thanks Ms. Sweeney for being and being the balance to the spooky and scary world it is.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tuesday Thoughts

A rare Tuesday entry. Mostly because Tuesday's are spent running errands and going to appointments, but the latter were postponed this week. So after reading the newspapers, perusing the news Websites, listening to NPR Morning Edition, I found some interesting stuff. Ok, interesting to me anyway. And, hey, it's my new and opinion blog, so I can voice away, even if the surveillence agency think this stuff or me are interesting. Or likely not.

And the photo? It's Paradise in Mt. Rainier NP at 8:00 am today. Not bad, 19+ feet of snow on the ground with a month or so to go before snowmelt normally starts and often lasts through Memorial day, and in some years to Independence Day. Really. We've had a colder than normal spring some years which slows the snowmelt where you encounter snow on the trails at 5-6,000 feet into July. And in years with colder summers, it's not uncommon for snow to last into August in sheltered areas at mid-elevations.

Ok, the news.

Just can't get away from the Bush administration. Awhile ago I mentioned they plan to allow developers to build in wetlands on the promise of building wetlands elsewhere. Well, the EPA and Corps of Engineers approved the final plan to this outrage or injustice - or whatever else you want to call the attack on wetlands, which allows developers to "bank" wetlands, meaning they can build on them now if they invest in them elsewhere, but that's only an investment with intentions, and not actual new or renovated wetlands.

Why the outrage? Wetlands are the primary temporary and food source for migrating birds. Without them, the birds have to use other lands, like farms, parks, etc., and we all know how well that goes over with people. Wetlands provide so much good for the environment and wildlife we should be protecting what we have and trying to develop more. It's about the health of this planet, and one day we'll realize the stupidity of these decisions to allow their destruction.

Onward with Bush bashing. Gotta love Bush for bashing. Or at least I do.

Did you know the President's daily briefing report now has more information gleened from the Internet than from traditional data and information techniques, like spying and surveillence? All the federal agencies now have branches dedicated to Internet watching and intelligence gathering. You can do the same if you know all those languages.

There's an interesting blog at Connecting the Dots. Not sure what he saying except noting the contradictions in things, events, views and even truth and reality. He has an interesting column in today's Wall Street Journal which noted the failures in our intelligence services.

But as many other have noted in the past, our intelligence services have long missed the boat on many issues, events and things, not just 9/11, Iraq's WMD's, and so on. Those very services seem to be more about the political spin on the intelligence at the behest of Presidents than anything, and much of the reality and truth are left in the wastebaskets of those who really do know but told not to write or say.

For something different, Washington Post article on Campaign financing through the Internet and Websites, click and support your candidates, post pro/con blogs or videos, and so on. The campaign now is shifting to cyberspace than real space, or at least sharing the media.

I don't know what to make of this one, yet anyway. While Bush as ranted at the Democrats about the now-expired surveillence law, wanting a more free-for-all legal spying and with immunity to the telcom companies (postumately too), he's had his staffers and Republicans work with the Democrats for a compromise.

What George, wanting it both ways? Or is he just stalling to blame the Democrats when things don't go the way he wants. But I'll say the same thing I've said to the Democrats, Stand your ground for the American people. We want what works but more importantly restores civil rights and protections against invastion of our privacy. The intelligences services have shown a history of violating that, so we want them corraled into being lawful.

We don't want the telcom companies getting immunity for their illegal acts on the public, the very customers who trusted them. And we don't want the intelligence and surveillence agences to get carte blanche access to our privacy without establishing their need and the evidence we're worth the warrant. American citizens aren't the enemy. And George must be held accountable.

Our government has shown it's not about fighting terrorism they're after, but surveillence on citizens. They aren't concerned as much about terrorist than wanting unrestricted access to everyone and everyone's records in the name of power and control, and eventually arresting and prosecuting people for simply thinking and speaking. We want our freedom. Let's not forget it's the Constitution we're protecting and defending against government's intrusions.

Ok, I've ranted enough for today. I'm reading David McClullough's book "1776" and it reminds me what they fought for. Let's not forget what they sacrificed for what we have now. And buy the book to learn some real history.