Monday, May 26, 2008

Defying Logic

Ok, it's Memorial Day and all of us should be grateful to those veterans who have given their life for our country and all of us should thank all veterans for their time serviing their country. It's usually a time a young man or woman has the world in front of them, and despite all those opportunities, they chose to serve. They felt a duty to their country, our country, and ensuring our democratic republic will survive into the future. And yes, I too served, 1969-73 in the US Air Force.

So, I don't understand anyone arguing against the servicemen and women. It's all about the troops. We shouldn't engage in any war for political purposes that doesn't threaten our national security, safety, soverignty, and freedoms. And we have seen this idea corrupted in the name of politics by a few diehard neoconservatives for their own goals and to help their personal and corporate friends.

Don't buy that idea about the Iraq war? I'll always argue for the war in Afghanistan and we're failing there because of the diversion for the war in Iraq. The Iraq war is the imagination of Dick Cheney and cohorts in the name of something they've never proven and something they've never justified. And all during the this war, Cheney has never refused his dividends from his investments in Haliburton after he left as their CEO.

But that said, it's still always about the troops. So why does our President who talks frequently at bases and military colleges and academies about the war decides to threaten to veto the new GI Bill. Doesn't he believe the troops deserve more after they've served? I do, and did. I used the GI Bill to get my BA and MS degrees. The Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans deserve more than I earned for simply surviving, and those who died should be able to pass some of those benefits to their family.

So, why does Bush oppose the new GI BIll? He says it will cause many troops to leave the service. Gee? Many have done two or three tours in the middle East. The Army has used stop-loss orders to keep servicemen and women in the Army, extended tours past the 12 month deployment, and rotated troops quicker back home to return to Iraq. The Army is running out of troops and enlistments aren't filling the need.

So, they want to leave. I don't blame them. Many in the National Guard and Reserves have lost their jobs, despite laws protecting their jobs while in service. Servicemen and women have one of the highest divorce and suicide rates. Many are trying to live with permanent disabilities. They deserve the oppporunity to get their life on the road they want. Themselves and their families. And their families at home deserve benefits while they're loved one(s) are in-country and often trying to survive with disabled veterans

And so our President wants more troops with less benefits. Simply defies logic.

More? Yup. How about Joe Lieberman?

Senator Lieberman was offended YouTube had videos posted by middle Eastern people which he decided were promoting terrorism and terrorists. He says the Internet "promotes radicalization and terrorism."

Ok, like the Internet does not promote right wing war mongering? How about the anti-abortion groups sugggesting terrorism against women and Planned Parenthood clinics? How Christian group, religions and organizations promoting wars against equality and human rights?

And now Congress wants to pass the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Preventation Act to establish a commission to study the terrorist threat and propose legislation. The ACLU says it's opening the front door to censorship of the Internet.

While YouTube removed some videos from Senator Lieberman's request, they left the majority on-line which angers the Senator who wants more removed. It's about free speech and US laws won't apply outside the US, so any law here will simply move the videos to overseas Websites, and likely more videos.

Senator Lieberman doesn't seem to undersand the Internet isn't the problem. It's the US global policy which is creating more terorists groups and recruiting more terrorists. What doesn't he understand about that?

And yes, it simply defies logic.

Did you know that gas station owners only make 8-10 cents, that's $.08-.10 per gallon of gas. All the rest goes to taxes, about 40-60 cents depending on the federal, state and local taxes. Subtract the amount for refining, about another 60 cents, and distribution, about another 20 cents, you can see 60% and more of the price of gas goes directly to the energy companies. There is more information here.

My point? Don't blame the gas station owner, many barely make a profit for themselves. They have little room outside the cost of the station and staff to be rich. And most of their real profit is with food sales, which is why nearly 70% are both gas stations and mini-marts. If you angry about the prices, take it to your elected representatives, like they'll really do much anyway (ok, personal opinion of Congress), about the lack of refineries, none built in the last 20 years, and the oil companies.

And yes, I once worked in a gas station. After I was discharged I needed a part-time job while going back to college and I worked at two stations in Sacramento. I first worked graveyard shift (midnight to 8:00 am) and then night shift (4:00 pm to midnight for one and 4:00 pm to closing at the other). Gas then (1973-74) gas was 29.9 cents regular and 32.9 cents premium.

So that's my thought this Memorial Day. While we should be honoring our veterans, some people defy logic. In any case, as always thank a veteran, they'll appreciate it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day thoughts

Ok, it's the Friday before the holiday, but still to many the same. And how many people aren't at work today, and not only "on holiday" but not even in town? So, you're not reading this anyway, like all of my entries on this blog? Ok, I can live with it that, the blog is more for me than anything, a way to vent or rant at the world, or simply think out loud.

And on top of that our baseball team here in paradise, the Seattle Mariners, are the worst team in the American league after getting swept by the then worst team, the Detroit Tigers. So, to all those teams in a slump, invite the Mariners, you'll win the series if not swept them and feel really good about yourself. As for the Mariners, it's not the manager's fault, few of the team are even close to their normal playing quality and the team is falling into a hole they routinely get into, except the 1995, 1997 and 2001 seasons, and never get out of it.

But we're like the Cubs' fans, loyal to a fault. Now if the team would just play their usual ability and quality, they'll do better, and if luck should prevail, which it hasn't so far this season, they might just have a winning season, and even fight for the Division lead. Ok, but we can hope until Labor Day weekend. So, dear Mariners, you have 3 months to get your head out of your baseball asses and starting playing and winning.

Ok, the news.

The proposed Domestic Surveillence bill going through Congress. Instead of granting the telecommunications companies immunity or not they want the secret national security court to decide the issue. That's called punting and putting the American people deep in their territory and Congress on the side of the telecommunications companies' lobbies and lawyers to argue for immunity and we're left with the Justice Department, who agrees with the companies.

Gee, why do I see this as a heads they win tails we lose situation, and our elected representatives aren't representing us but the companies and their own butts, er seats in Congress, to ensure they get to keep their lobbist happy. It's time Congress actually did something for the American people and protect our civil rights and liberties, like the right to privacy, and not free surveillence by the NSA throught the telecomnications companies.

I already know it's a lost cause as the ad companies are watching our Internet use, but to give the NSA, FBI and other agencies to spy on citizens without warrants is being, as they already have been extensively since 2001, Big Brother. We'll never get our freedoms back. Neither party wants to be seen as soft on terrorism, but they don't mind being soft on civil liberties and rights, in the name of fighting (imaginary) terrorists.

Ok, enough brow beating Congress and their ineptness. Not like they don't deserve it.

Iraq. Not the war, but the war spending. An audit of Army contracts found $8.2 Billion paid to contractors without clear explanations of the work to be performed and any documents verifying if any work had been done. Money just gone. And the audit found the Army distributed $1.8 Billion in cash without any accounting for it. Money simply gone. And the Army has can't account for anything about the $10 Billion except the checks were sent and cash doled out.

Maybe the American citizens should be contractors. Maybe we'll get our money's worth from our government?

According to "experts" we need a larger, more expensive military. Gee, we already have the world's most expensive, the largest Army is to China's, and we spend the most money on our military than most of all the other countries combined, including the biggest part of the federal budget after social security and entitlements, and the experts are saying because of our worldwide responsibility and fight against terrorism, we need more. More troops, more equipment and more money.

Funny none of the Presidential candidates are offering to rein in government spending on the military and our wars. They all want to increase the size of the miliary, McCain most of all. It seems to me we're becoming a military-industrial republic where everything government is based on the benefits of the military and corporations.

Eisenhower was right, and sadly fifty years later, we're where he feared and we're not seeing it. Will we ever or will the cost of the national debt, entitlements, social security and the military make the rest of the government obsolete and unaffordable? And give it all back to the states like it was in the 1950's before the federal government took over most of the costs for the variety of public's needs, like education, healthcare, welfare, infrastructure, environmental protection, etc?

Why do I get the feeling we're going backwards?

Oil. The interesting and touchy issue. And what are the oil, er energy, companies, which aren't US based anymore but international, saying? They want into the currently restricted areas like the coastal waters and ANWR in Alaska. But, and it's a big but, it would take nearly a decade to explore, build and export oil from those areas, the oil refineries are already at capacity and can't handle the new inflow, and currently the oil companies are only developing about a third (14.5 million acres) of the entire land under their leases with the federal government.

This means they don't want to produce and refine more oil, but open new areas for future markets. On top of that studies have shown increasing domestic production, which has increased during the Bush adiminstration, has not reduced prices one penny. Their game is a ruse to get more land under lease they can hold in reserve. The oil companies should use what they have and really help lower prices instead of raising profits.

There's been plenty of articles about the energy companies locking up lands for future development. The companies are currently milking the international oil producers, like the Middle East, South America, Africa, etc., and simply holding on to the US and EU owned or leased lands. They're not interested in the consumer, only our money, and they're staging themselves to stay in business for the next 2-3 decades.

Well, I've exhausted my anger synpases for a holiday weekend, and I want to enjoy it. I'll leave with some smiles. First, Goli and second, my cat. Have a good and safe holiday.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mid-week Thoughts

It's Tuesday and after a sunny and warm, meaning over 90 degrees, weekend the rain came back with temperatures in the mid to upper 50's. My usual appointment was cancelled, so I had the day to do other things beside that and errands, except I did a few local ones.

The recent weekend also initiated the snowmelt season. The snow if melting quicker than normal and the rivers draining the Cascade Mountains are higher than normal. It's also caused a number of people injured or killed rafting in the cold river water. Somehow people don't equate cold melting snow with rivers, only the warm lowland temperatures.

Ok, the news, if that isn't the news.

Did you know that only 20% of the prisoners in US prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan are really criminals and insurgents with "extremist groups fighting the US"? Twenty percent, which means 80% are innocent men and boys, yes boys under 18. And now the US has decided to release them to reintegrate back into society.

Ok, I'm stupified about this. Not because we did this, which is already stupid on their part to just conduct sweeps and arrest any male between 16 and 40+ as suspects, only to discover the clear majority aren't. But because after being in US prison, we expect them to like us and become ordinary citizens. What don't we understand about creating hate and fostering an enemy?

But I forgot one thing. Unemployment. We're paying those we release. Gee, there's no jobs, they have no money, and we paid for the information they gave us. What are we creating there? What happened to the economy that was supposed, as we were told, would bloom after the 2003 war? It's been 5 years now. And how long will this go on?

This one is a big "Huh?" Doctors have been prescribing medical marijuana for patients awaiting transplants to offset the pain and other symptoms of their illness. And now when it's their time for a transplant, they're being removed from eligibilty and taken off transplant lists because they're using marijuana. Since it's an illegal drug, that's an automatic rejection for a transplant. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

It turns out President Bush is true to his word. Not the truth mind you, but not following the law, and skimming money Congress funds for projects, called earmarks. It seems the individual agencies have been keeping 10-25% of the money for "administrative costs", meaning keeping it and using it for other government work, mostly staff and supplies.

This is against the law since no agency has the authority to withhold funds provided through Congressional earmarks. The whole amount is supposed to go through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to the respective receiving entity. If any agency can take a small percentage for costs, it's OMB, but not other federal agencies, even those overseeing the funds. They simply pass the funds on through OMB.

And we expected something different from Bush's administration?

Ok, enough rants. Parting jesture? Well, street photography is about observation, and the capturing what you observe. A good example is Alexandra Zwolinski's street photography.

Monday, May 19, 2008

It's about the politics

I was reading an article about Al Jazeera English and the inability of the TV station to break into US cable companies. After they failed last year, citing the cable companies' response their network is not acceptable to viewers, they are changing the presentation, closer to BBC News.

Except BBC News also isn't in the channels with US cable companies? Why is that? Does it explain why US cable companies are playing politics with the news? Gee, any wonder why Americans don't have a world view, we don't get world news, only the world news the major cable companies want us to hear and the cable companies provide.

What's ironic to me is that now the US cable companies are citing lack of channel capacity in their refusal to add either BBC News or Al Jazeera English. Except they adding all sorts of extra Pay-Per-View (PPV) channels and adding all sorts of HD channels for existing digital channels. And these channels sell products, like home repair, food and cooking, gardening, etc., to viewers. And they're adding other HD channels, like the SciFi channel, Science&Nature, National Geographic, etc.

In addition there are five fulltime news channel along with several non-English news channels. Adding BBC News and Al Jazeera English would not be a stretch for the cable companies, and I for one would like to have them as a choice. I would pay for them as alternative news that gives me a broader sense of the news. I want to hear about the world and how the US is seen by the world.

So to the cable companies, get a clue about your customers. You seem to think you do, but then why do so many customers, like me too, don't like you. We have to use you because you have exclusive rights to areas, and unfortunately the two satellite TV networks aren't any better in terms in costs and worse in terms of service due to bad weather. But you, cable companies, are striving to get worse every day.

So, dear cable companies, when will I get my choice to add BBC New and Al Jazeera English?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

It's always about the money

Ok, twice in a week I've had brain fade to do something else, meaning rant about the world. Why the brain fading this week besides spending the last 2-3 weeks learning Google Earth/map applications? Well, after upgrading to Leopard and updating Leopard (strange Apple had an update not too long after its introduction). Anyway, I lost a lot of small things I used to know or knew how they worked under Tiger.

In any event, the software for my Nikon scanner quit working, a problem known by Nikon before the release of Leopard, but they weren't all that quick to fix it, and then they pretty much hid the upgrade to the driver deep in their Website. After finding it and talking with their reps. it's the first and only software I've had to actually unistall and install anew on my Mac. After installing the old driver on Leopard, I had to upgrade to the driver to make things work. It seems Nikon didn't tell folks that and simply upgrading the driver installed under Tiger wouldn't work.

Anyway, that was fixed, and then the HP 2605dn printer utility was changed where I couldn't see the ink levels in the cartridges. I heemed and hawed for months over this thinking it wasn't important until this week when I got tired of trying to know when I need to buy new cartridges (they're like $80 each). Well, wandering around I found it in a new utility. Great, thanks HP.

Anyway, that's why. And the news?

Did you know the Army has been paying, remember it's our tax dollars they're using, contractors for insurance premiums for their work in Iraq, meaning equipment and work, but the companies haven't been buying some or all the insurance required in the contracts? They've been pocketing the money and then charging the government for the costs of insurance. It's called a scam. We're paying, they're profitting, and no one is minding the store.

Now the Army is "looking into it", meaning the appearance of an investigation where they're report the amount of the fraud in millions of dollars and ask the Justice Department to "look into it" for prosecution. It's a double scam, one we pay and two we pay for the farce of one maybe two investigation where no one is charged and no money is reclaimed. And companies, along with the executives, get rich.

And we paid the bills then and now.

when is the truth not the truth?

When missles, likely from US predator drones, hit a village in Pakistan, remember the Pakistan government allowed the US to do this, destroying a house and killing 12 people. The evidence at the scene, reported by Pakistan, says it's missles and not rockets, but the US denies any drones in the area let alone any missle strikes. But locals report seeing drones in the area about that time.

So who are we to believe?

Home buyers are now suing Escrow companies for services charged and not done or overpaying for services. Fraud here again. What? It's buyer beware? About what and who? Who can a first-time buyer trust anymore when buying a home? It's a complicated legal situation and no home buyer can know everything and challenge everyone along the way. The system is rigged against the buyer for the sellers, agents, brokers and others who only see the buyer as a checkbook.

I hope Congress will wake up some day, but I'm not holding my breath anymore with Congress. They're the biggest fraud on the people I've ever seen. They've obfuscated the obligation and responsibility to the people so bad, and for money.

Did you know George, who's threatened a veto over the farm bill, has only vetoed 9 bills in his 7-plus years as President, and 6 of those in this fiscal year? But then he uses signing statement to avoid doing what Congress passed or funded.

Did you know all the money we've given Pakistan in the name of fighting terrorism and terrorists, namely the Taliban and Al Qaeda is for naught? Really. The Pakistani government is negotiating with the Tribes in the areas the Taliban control and base their attacks in Afghanistan to limit the Army's presence and effort to confront and engage them. The Pakistan government says their plans aren't working and costing the military too much, so they're leaving the area except for a minimal presence to protect and secure their borders.

Gee, so much for diplomacy and our money.

This one is good. Michael Chertoff, you know the secretary of Homeland Security, says 9,000 people per day are misidentified on the no-fly lists maintained by HSA and the airlines. The watch list has 900,000 names in it and grows by 20,000 per month. Yes, that's only 1% error, but so far only 15,000 have managed to get their names correctly removed from the list. So, as it stands more errors are made than corrected and more names are added than removed, so the number of mistakes can only go up.

And this is our government at its best too.

Parting jesture? I guess with the disasters in Burma and China, it's hard to be funny in the face of such human tragedy. And there are fires in Florida, tornados in the mid-west, and other disasters around the world. Such is life now. They happen and are news immediately. And in the face of them I wonder what we have learned or have we even thought?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I've been busy

Ok, no new posts in a while. I've been busy working on my Photo Guide to Mt. Rainier NP, namely learning Google map applications. But I've still been paying attention to the news, both in print and on good radio stations, meaning NPR and similar ones. So, what have I gleaned of interest?

Well, it's not about George this time, for the most part at least.

First, why does John McCain oppose the new GI Bill being considered by Congress? He opposes it because it would "cost too much.", like $52 Billion ovr 10 years, and "It would hasten departures of soldiers from the miltary." Oh, I forgot, we're in a war and the Army has to use Stop-Loss acts to keep people from leaving either after their first tour or shortening their careers.

Gee, it's like Vietnam. We left when our time was up to get on with our lives. John should know that, but we forget he wants to continue the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq indefinetly, to fight Al Qaeda there until we win. Ok, it's the continuation of George's war. And to do that you need troops. Recruitments are down in spite of huge enlistment and re-enlistment bonsus, up to $40K.

It seems to me the war has run the people's patience and it's time to wind it up, and all the politics can't put a good face on a bad war. I won't disagree with the fact the war in Afghanistan is worthwhile, it's just not being managed very well. But then again, to the Taliban, who we supported against the then Soviets, we're simply the new Soviets. And they know they have time and the tentative protection of Pakistan's government.

But to oppose the GI Bill? How stupid for any candidate. Does he know how many veterans take offense at that view?

How about independence in film and television? Not. Cablevision, who own the Independent Film Channel (IFC), is buying the Sundance Channel. They're the only two independent film channels on TV. But have you noticed that IFC have been showing mainstream movies? But then the Sundance Channel was owned by NBC Universal movie and CBS Corporation beside Paul Newman.

What's the saying, "It's about the money."?

I'm kinda' brain fried right now for news. I have a stack of clippings of note but right now it's not all that important to me. It's still important, just not enough to think enough to write about it, especially in light of the disasters in Burma and China. By the time it's all said and done and everything is begining to be restored, over 100,000 will be dead, maybe 150-200,000, and millions homeless and without basic needs.

Did you give thanks for being where you are now?

Parting jesture? Neil Young, the great, always thinking, activist aging rocker, has a bug named for him? Jason E. Bond named the bug he discovered after his favorite rock musician. It's Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi if you're wondering. Normally those discovering a new species of animals get to name them after themselves. A professor I had did this researching soils. His worm is in the books. And now so is Neil Young's.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

It's still about the money

Well, I got my economic stimulus check this week deposited into my checkbook. So, to answer what George and others will ask, "What will you do with your check?" It's in my account to sit there and earn money. It's not going anywhere else. It's now my money and I will choose to do with it as I want and need, no matter what George thinks how I should spend it. I won't stimulate the economy unless my dumb bank, there aren't any smart or customer-supported banks anymore, decides to waste it's huge profit on subpar mortages or bad investments.

And reading and listening to the news about George, it's clear he's simply biding his time. Everything he says he wants to accomplish won't have any effect until he's gone. He's punted every issue, problem or need into the future. He's simply trying to go out on a happy note, in his mind, to tell himself, "I did everything I could." Except it's down the toliet for this country, this nation and the people. He's acting like a senior in college partying after hearing he'll graduate, and he should know better than anyone, he wasted many years avoiding military service doing it.

Ok, enough ranting or venting about George. Not. He's such a good target, a natural.

Ok, something different. Reverend Wright. Touchy subject?

Well, I'm angry about all the flak about him. What don't people understand about our freedom of speech? If the reverend espoused war against our enemies, espoused a strong pro-life position about life - or really cotnrolling women's body, espoused angry at black people like Bill Cosby did a few years ago, and so on, would he have been chasitized in public?

I doubt it. Senator Obama has nothing to explain or excuse himself for. We pick our friends as they are, everything about them as is, faults and all. How many of you have heard or read the complete sermons of the reverend or heard or read the complete speeches of the reverend, to fully understand what he really said? Or did you just follow the snippets the news twisted into stories?

I liked Senator Obama's initial response that he simply disagreed with Reverend Wright. That's all that has to be said. I respect him for that. All the rest is simply politics.

Why haven't the oil industry built more refineries? Will all the profits they're making they haven't built a new one in over 20 years. And we know they're running near capacity making billions in profits. We know everyone would approve several new refineries in a heartbeat almost anywhere. So why aren't there new ones?

Did you know for the umpteenth time the myth about bottled water is a myth. Scientist this week asserted you just need the water in whatever form is comes in, cola, coffee, tea, etc. Your body extracts the water it needs from what you eat and drink, so adding water in a normal diet is overkill.

And most bottled water is tap water bottled. Really. Some are from specific springs or wells, but even these share their aquifers with nearby towns and cities. If you don't believe me, check out the bottled water you're drinking. You're wasting money and could easily save by buying a good water bottle and drink tap water.


Did you know the Vice President is the one person responsible for not getting the right whale on the endangered species list? Yup, everything was done over a year ago and ready to be imposed, but the VP intervened and it's been siting on his desk since then and won't get out before he leaves office.

It took a federal court judge and Representative Henry Waxman to get the documents from the VP including all the scientists' reports supporting the listing, and the work by the senior administrative staff to rewrite it so whales aren't an endangered species as we all know. So that's the power and stupidity of Mr. Cheney. He's not a VP but someone playing it for the good of his corporate friends and himself.

Five years later President Bush says the "Mission Accomplished" banner was a mistake. Like Duh, Dude! We all knew it then and you're now just getting it? Wow, you're quick. Not!

Five years on and we're still at war in Iraq. What a legacy he's leaving us.

Did you know the African National Congress, a legally recognized and elected party in South Africa is a terrorist organization? And did you know that Nobel Laurate Nelson Mandella is banned from the US being a member of the ANC? He needs a waiver to enter the US. What a system. That's our terror watch list.

Did you know the Iraq government has earned $70 Billion from oil sales, not including the oil stolen by various groups in Iraq. At the same time we're paying $1 Billion for reconstruction, and about $100 MIllion to insurgent and militia groups who "work" with the US forces to fight other insurgents and militia groups. Your tax money at work and their going where? Into the pockets of the rich Iraqis?

Did you know that none of the candidates on either side will not reduce let alone eliminate the national debt? NONE of them! So why aren't they being asked about that?

Did you know that almost all of the "war analysists" on the news networks are retired senior military officers? Yup, only NPR doesn't allow them on their news stories, and if they do an interview with one or an active duty military officer, they tell the audience. Do the news networks to that? No, they simply put a banner across the screen.

So why are the news networks not bring in other war analysists? How about specialist on diplomacy or even worse, peace? So are the new networks really marketing war? For who? Not us, but the government? And who is our government, Bush and Cheney. It's a government media, not the news. Remember that when you watch or listen.

Parting jesture. Grace Wang (Washington Post article), who has spoken out against both sides of the Tibet debate to stop fighting and start talking to each other. And both sides have called her a traitor. Gee, expressing your own views and trying to find a resolution. Our hats off to her being her own person.