Friday, July 31, 2009

The Truth About Amsterdam

With many news and political stories it is my appraisal that FOX News intentionally distorts, lies, and spreads inflamatory right-wing propaganda.
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I came across this neat video today which helps to put things in perspective.
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The American Civil War

The American Civil War is also commonly called the War Between the States. In early 1861 eleven states from the southern portion of the United States of America decided to leave the USA to form the Confederate States of America (CSA). The CSA is now normally referred to as the Confederacy. The northern states which chose to stay in the USA are usually referred to as the Union. The Federal Government of the USA looked at this move by the southern states as a rebellion.

One of the major issues which caused these southern states to get so terribly angry that they no longer wanted to even remain a part of the same country as the North was the issue of slavery. Many people in the North felt that the entire concept of slavery was abhorrent. But by 1861 even the poor and uneducated white southerners considered themselves to be racially superior to the black African slaves.

The civil war lasted from 1861 until 1865. In many families (including mine) there were soldiers who fought for the Union and others who fought against them as soldiers in the army of the Confederacy.

The first slaves had originally been brought to America by greedy Dutch businessmen who were completely happy to enslave free black African people and transport them to the new world just to make a nice profit. The people who survived the journey endured the most horrible conditions on board the ships while crossing the Atlantic Ocean. A great many died before reaching America.

Kind of like happens when one uses opiates, the wealthy southern plantation owners soon grew dependent upon a steady supply of these black African slaves. The blacks in many cases worked themselves to death and the indolent whites grew lazy.

The American Civil War was the deadliest war in American history. Many civilians died plus 620,000 soldiers. More soldiers died of disease and poor nutrition than died in battle.

I am now 60 years old. When I was a very young and impressionable boy, my maternal grandmother Florence May Barlow Barnwell played a much more active role in raising me than my mother did. My grandmother was born on 11 May 1890, which was about 25 years after the end of the civil war. But the stories she told about Sherman’s march through Georgia were so vivid and personal it seemed almost like she had actually been there. Her father had served under General Sherman in the union army during the march through Georgia. Fifty years later I can still remember with horror and actually feel emotionally just how brutal the civil war and this scorched earth policy were. What sticks out in my mind more than anything is her description of the young soldiers who managed to survive, coming back from the war having lost most of their teeth. The soldiers' nutrition was so poor that they suffered terrible scurvy because of not eating sufficient fruit and greens, and insufficient amounts of vitamin C.

In late 1864 Major General William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army conduced a campaign which has come to be known as Sherman’s March to the Sea, the Savannah Campaign, or as my grandmother called it Sherman’s March through Georgia. He and his union troops (including my great grandfather) left the captured city of Atlanta, Georgia on 15 November 1864 and ended up capturing the port city of Savannah, Georgia on 21 December 1864. So the entire campaign lasted only about 5 weeks.

The USA commander Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant believed that the civil war could be won if the union troops followed a strategy of destroying the south’s economic capacity for warfare which also broke both the civilians and the military psychologically. Sherman followed his orders and employed a scorched earth policy. He ordered his troops to burn all crops, kill all livestock, and consume or destroy the supplies of both the confederate military and the non-combatant civilians living in the South. His troops were ordered to destroy all civilian infrastructure along their path, so they even took up and carted away the south’s railroad tracks and railroad ties or heated them in bonfires and then wrapped the railroad ties around trees.

The following is part of General Sherman’s field order dated 9 November 1864.

V. To army corps commanders alone is entrusted the power to destroy mills, houses, cotton-gins, &c., and for them this general principle is laid down: In districts and neighborhoods where the army is unmolested no destruction of such property should be permitted; but should guerrillas or bushwhackers molest our march, or should the inhabitants burn bridges, obstruct roads, or otherwise manifest local hostility, then army commanders should order and enforce a devastation more or less relentless according to the measure of such hostility.

VI. As for horses, mules, wagons, &c., belonging to the inhabitants, the cavalry and artillery may appropriate freely and without limit, discriminating, however, between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor or industrious, usually neutral or friendly. Foraging parties may also take mules or horses to replace the jaded animals of their trains, or to serve as pack-mules for the regiments or brigades. In all foraging, of whatever kind, the parties engaged will refrain from abusive or threatening language, and may, where the officer in command thinks proper, give written certificates of the facts, but no receipts, and they will endeavor to leave with each family a reasonable portion for their maintenance.

One hundred and fifty years later is there anything which we can learn today from these brutal tactics employed by the federal government of the USA? Some of the distrust and hate for the federal government still lingers on in 2009.

Unreasoning intolerance and brutality breeds brutality in return.

This means that when the white representatives of the government in Washington D.C. appear to be abusing poor people or black people in America, there still is a very strong emotive reaction on the part of many people. Most of them probably don’t even know why they are experiencing such a strong emotional response.

I see distinct parallels between the Republican Party’s appalling treatment of President Barack Obama in 2009 and the brutality employed by the north during the civil war. I see the same sort of unthinking brutality coming from the opponents of universal health care. Whether it is southern racists brutally killing white civil rights workers from the North, or burning crosses and lynching innocent blacks, this sort of brutality builds up and eventually results in a payback.

Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It is very possible that I won’t see it my lifetime, but I am fairly certain that there will eventually be an intense reaction to what has been happening in Washington, D.C. for the last 30 years. The wealthy traders on Wall Street who in the middle of the worst recession since the 1930’s are still are receiving million dollar bonuses have been nicely bailed out by the federal government in Washington, D.C.

But very little has been done for the middle class people whose jobs have been sent overseas in order to evade the American laws regulating work place safety, environmental pollution, freedom of the workers to organize into trade unions, and the minimum wage. Not much help has come from the government to the many people who have lost most of their life savings in their 401K pension plans. The same applies to the many people who have lost their homes and their jobs because of the greed and widespread corruption among elected officials in America.

In almost all advanced countries in the world, everyone in the country has equal access to the health care system whether they are rich or poor. Not so in the USA. People are still dying in America because they are denied health insurance due to pre-existing conditions or because they cannot afford the exorbitant price of health care.

The progressive and liberal elected officials in American are not succeeding in implementing new regulations and laws to stop this financial house of cards from crashing down again. This impotence is the case even though the Democratic Party overwhelmingly controls all branches of the government: the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Presidency. The omnipresent corruption called campaign contributions, the greed, and the right wing conservatives in both political parties have been quite effective in stopping any sort of genuine reform from taking place.

I fear that the pressure for fair treatment of everyone in America will continue to build, and that one day there will be a terrific and unstoppable explosion. The biggest problem with revolutions is the complete uncertainty regarding what will come out the other end. It is much wiser to treat all people fairly in the first place.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Religion

I was raised as a Christian. As a child my family went to Church every Sunday. In America in the 1950’s and early 1960’s it was considered the respectable thing to do. I was baptized and later I was confirmed in the American Anglican Church (I no longer wish to be associated with the religious fanatics who call themselves Episcopals). In my late 20’s I got re-born in a church where the pastor strummed an acoustic guitar and sang during the service.

My retired doctor in England is one of the world’s top researchers in leukemia. He has an absolutely brilliant analytical mind and a fantastic memory. Even so he is a true believer in all the myths and fairy tales of Christianity. He has faith, and no doubt he believes that Mary got pregnant without ever having had sex. I’m sure that he believes in spontaneously combusting bushes, walking on water, parting the waters of the sea in order to trek across the sea bed, making wine from water, and coming back to life after your body has been laying there at room temperature decomposing for three days.

This sort of delusional behavior used to be seen as being devout. At one time it was considered positive to have these sorts of hallucinations. Talking in tongues was cool and was serious proof of one’s “faith.”

Now I look at these poor deluded religious fanatics in much the same way that I would view a gutter alcoholic or a heroin addict. I feel sorry for them, but I shy away from any close contact with them because of their potentially dangerous and irrational behavior.

I will not pretend that I am a complete atheist. When I lie outside at night and view all the billions of stars it is hard to not believe in something superior to homo sapiens.

But I am totally opposed to all ORGANIZED religion. That means Christian, Judaism, Unitarians, Islam, Modern Day Saints, Hindu, Buddhist, or Shinto. You name it. They are all horribly evil institutions full of holy men on power trips and strange myths which cause the adherents of one religion to go to war with people who believe in a different set of fairy tales and Gods. How sick.

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Obama Was Born in America

The entertainers Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs are among the weirdoes who are continuing to fan the flames of presidential birth denial.

These so-called “birthers” are a group of people who in the face of unambiguous evidence to the contrary, continue to claim that President Barack Obama is not a natural born citizen and thus was not eligible to become president of the United States. Maybe these ignorant racists don't realize that Hawaii is one of the 50 states which make up the USA.

These "birthers" are actually just badly informed racists in camouflage. Their disguises are about as subtle as the white witch caps and long dresses that the men of the KKK enjoy wearing so much.
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According to the associated press:
HONOLULU — State officials in Hawaii on Monday said they have once again checked and confirmed that President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen, and therefore meets a key constitutional requirement for being president.

"I ... have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawaii State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen," Health Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino said in a brief statement. "I have nothing further to add to this statement or my original statement issued in October 2008 over eight months ago."


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Perhaps these are the same dumb asses who refute that the earth is round, deny that man ever landed on the moon, reject that human-induced global warming is already taking place, and don't accept that the holocaust ever happened. The genetic pool of mankind certainly is capable of producing some ignorant low life.
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Why It Is Fashionable To Be Young and Stupid

Craig Ferguson's brillant monologue on "Why It Is Fashionable To Be Young and Stupid."

video

Healthcare


Click on the bar chart to the right and it will enlarge. It comes from the OECD Health Data 2009. It is shocking.

What it shows is that in the USA we have fewer hospital beds per person than they have in Great Britain, Italy, or the Netherlands. America has far less than half as many hospital beds per person as in France or Germany. The same applies with numbers of doctors. In America we have fewer doctors per person than in Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, France, or Germany.

The absolute killer is that in America the current healthcare expenditure as a percentage of GDP is double that in Britain and MUCH higher than in France, Germany, The Netherlands, and Italy.

Barack Obama is right about one thing: The current bastardized system that was implemented by the right wing, profit-mad Republicans is well on its way to bankrupting America.

The solution in America really is quite simple. There already exist several government financed universal health care systems in the USA. One applies to congressmen and senators, another covers the military, and the largest government paid, single payer universal health care system provides health care to everyone age 65 and older. It is called Medicare.

This is not difficult to solve. Honest. Make everyone in America an automatic participant in the single payer health care plan called Medicare.
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How To Solve America's Problems

I was born and raised in America. I am now a retired old geezer. In the period in between, which we normally refer to as life, I lived in Frankfurt, Germany for a few years and later in my life in the southern most province of the Netherlands for 15 years. I have travelled to many other countries.

I speak almost fluent Spanish, and at one time I thought it might be wise to retire in Mexico. I have been to Mexico hundreds of times, and I have visited much of the country. I certainly cannot recommend moving to Mexico any more. The slow motion train wreck which we are watching in Mexico is mostly of their own making. Many years of greed, corruption, and rampant dishonesty have led to this journey down the failed state route. I don’t even recommend visiting Mexico as a tourist any more. If you are a poor American and you are forced to go to Mexico to buy your blood pressure medication or in order to get dental care, do so only with the greatest trepidation.

Many of us thought that America could be salvaged if Barack Obama were elected. I now see that this was wildly unrealistic. The wars have not ended or the wasteful spending on the military reduced. Instead of implementing single payer universal health care in America, the legislators in Washington are now working on a plan much like the failed Clinton plan which would demand that anyone who doesn’t buy health insurance (or can’t afford to) pay a large fine to the government. This is a distorted and perverted way of dealing with the situation. After all the years of Republican emasculation of the essential regulations in the financial system, Wall Street is not being re-regulated in any meaningful way. The Justice Department is being prevented from investigating allegations that illegal torture was performed during the Bush administration. Even the antitrust regulators in the Obama administration are now being prevented from going after monopolies, not by the Republicans, but by their own folks within the Obama administration!

Several people have honestly and sincerely asked me recently, “So what do you recommend?” I am sure that they thought I might be able to offer some ideas for getting America back on track.

Sorry. No can do. The America I grew up in, that I served during the Vietnam war by being a soldier, and that I had great hopes for has simply wasted away due to too many years of gluttonous greed and political corruption. I clearly view “campaign contributions” as bribes. I no longer see any hope for America to come back. Just like with the failed state of Mexico, I see the United States of America as doomed.

My recommendation is that you give up on America and do what is necessary for your own self preservation. Move to a more civilized country. There are a lot of good ones out there, such as France and Germany, which I simply cannot propose because of the vast language differences. Having lived almost 20 years of my adult life in Europe, I am a good person to tell you how difficult it is not being able to read your income tax form, the property tax statement from the municipality, your bank statement, or the local newspaper. No, I cannot in good conscience advise that any American permanently move to a country where English is not the primary language.

This limits the countries which I would consider to: Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Great Britain has some of the same problems as America, but it is an amazing set of islands. I have been to the UK many times, and I really like it there. But the social class based hierarchy is still very alive in Britain. I have never visited Australia or New Zealand, so I don’t have much to say about them other than that they seem like they might be worth considering.

My top choice is Canada. The weather is indeed colder there, but other than that small downside, the Canadians are REALLY POLITE and nice people. They are virtual Americans by culture. Except that they figured out the truth about universal health care years ago. They have a small little military establishment, and the country doesn’t waste a large part of the national income on war and killing.

Canada has its own problems, including little things like the French speakers who want to hold a civil war and tear the country apart. Even so, I view emigrating to Canada as a superior alternative to continuing to live in America. Just kiss it goodbye and look towards the future.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

So Long Caribou Barbie

Today is the last day in office for Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. The youngest governor in the history of the state, Palin has quit just half way through her first term.

She has been dogged by ethics complaints and the large legal bills which go hand in hand with defending these charges. She was the impetuous and poorly chosen vice presidential running mate for Republican senator John McCain of Arizona who couldn’t answer even simple and routine questions asked by the news media. She proved very good at improving her wardrobe and those of her family members, while using other people’s money.

Her minor, unmarried daughter got pregnant and had a baby while Palin was Governor, and there have been reports that her son has a long history of serious drug dependency problems. Her performance and results as both a parent and an elected official has not been a very positive role model for the fundamentalist Christian right wing. But they seem to love her anyway.

I say Good Riddance to Mrs. Palin and all of her problems. From my view she is just another poorly educated, badly informed ex-beauty queen who is now well beyond her best before date.
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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Red Dwarf


The TV comedy science fiction series called Red Dwarf ran from 1988 until 1999 on BBC2 in the UK. It won many awards and still has a well deserved cult following. Various unsuccessful knock offs have been tried in the USA including an attempt in 1992 and a later movie. Much like Time Team America, The Office, and Life On Mars, the American attempts to copy popular British TV shows have normally met with very limited success.

Even though Red Dwarf originally was broadcast in the PAL television format, it is available in America on DVDs which will play fine on a conventional modern American format DVD player. It looks just great on my large screen high definition TV set. I bought my Red Dwarf DVDs from Amazon.com

I lived in Europe for 15 years, and I first became aware of the series over there. That was back in the bad old days when one still watched TV shows from a VCR tape system. I was and still am a devoted fanatical follower of the Red Dwarf Cult.

Fans of Craig Ferguson should watch the fifth program in Series I of Red Dwarf called “Confidence & Paranoia.” A twenty year younger and somewhat more rotund Craig Ferguson plays the character called Confidence. Maybe it is just the make up, but to me Craig Ferguson looks sort of like Elvis!

If you aren’t familiar with the Red Dwarf series I recommend that you at least watch all of Series I before you make up you mind about this wonderful classic TV series.
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Postscript

I worked actively in the Obama primary and general election campaigns. Even though I am retired and on a meager income, I donated money to help him get elected…more than once. So I am certainly an Obama supporter. And I think that most of the elected officials who belong to the Republican political party are dishonest, corrupt, racist fools. That was the mild, gentle version of what I think about them.

So what I am about to say is not coming from the opposition. It comes from a loyal Obama supporter.

Six months into his term as President of the United States we are now witnessing the early stages of Barack Obama’s failure. I forecast that we will now witness an accelerating downward spiral. The right wing fanatics have been circling, taking little nips of flesh. They now smell blood, and they are starting their advance to go in for the kill.

Barack Obama is intelligent, well educated, and a wonderfully articulate orator. His ideas were right on target: Implement single payer universal health care, end the wars, bring the troops home, stop spending so much money on the military, end all torture and close all the secret police jails. Shine the cleansing power of light on things.

So what went wrong?

From the very start of his administration Obama turned his back on his main supporters, i.e., the progressives, the liberals, and the left wing. From the get-go he took all these dedicated, well educated, thinking individuals completely for granted and for the most part even stopped listening to them.

He appointed the same old greedy, conservative political hacks to his economic team who brought America and the world into the worst financial meltdown since the great depression. He was not at all open and honest about how greedy and corrupt all of “Wall Street” had really become. After years of Republican fraud, neutering, and dismantling of the nation’s financial regulations (they called it deregulation), Obama’s suggested reforms which he and his team came up with were surprisingly weak and mild mannered. Rather than something bold, the recommended reforms were not any sort of a major strengthening and complete rebuilding from the foundation up.

The banks and large financial institutions were bailed out to the tune of billions of dollars, but the people who were thrown out of work and lost their homes were not given much help. In fact, as the situation deteriorated the taxes and other revenue going to the states kept going down, so the social safety nets like unemployment compensation were greatly reduced. Six months into his presidency the gluttonous crooks on Wall Street were already getting million dollar bonuses again, even while unemployment was increasing and more middle class people were losing their homes. Now it was no longer just the poor people who had taken out sub-prime mortgages. It had become the normal middle class people with 30 year fixed mortgages, but who had lost their jobs.

President Obama almost immediately caved in to the right wing and abandoned his commitment to single payer, universal health care. Instead of talking about Universal Health Care he and all of his team began referring exclusively to “health care reform” or “cost reduction.” As if this little bit of deception would fool the right wing. No mention was made of the human cost or of the 50 million people without any health insurance. Nobody in the administration was talking about the other vast numbers of people who were getting screwed-over by the health insurance companies. Obama was strangely quiet, haughty, and divorced from any of the rough and tumble negotiations and discussions about implementation of universal health care. In a PBS interview he said that “this was not his style.” By the time he went on national TV to talk about his health care “reforms” and “cost control” very few people believed him when he said that these proposals would not increase the national debt.

Of course the right wing fanatics and the Republicans were violently opposed to all of his proposals which would help average Americans. But the really shocking part is that in only six months as President he had already lost almost all credibility among his base of supporters. They simply thought he was lying about the financial consequences of his proposals. And the funny part is: These were not even his health care proposals. They were badly watered down compromises which had floated out of Congress.

Obama said that he had ended the Iraq war, but no troops came home. They just moved out of the cities and into the boondocks. Rather than ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and reducing the wasteful spending on the military, within six month of his inauguration as President the total number of people in the military was actually increased significantly. Keep in mind that Obama did not appoint a liberal or progressive as Secretary of Defense. He kept Bush II’s man in the job slot!! Of course the wars went on and the total spending on warfare did not decrease.

Keep in mind that all this backpedalling and obsequious behavior by Obama and the Democrats was taking place when the Democrats overwhelmingly controlled both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

So from this perspective six months into his administration what have we learned about Barack Obama? He badly underestimated the strength of his opponents. He had on his rosy colored glasses and unrealistically thought that these greedy right wing fanatics would play fair.

Obama does not have a strong backbone. He can’t even manage to quit smoking. Strength-of-character is not his strong point. At the very first hint of any sort of conflict he averts his eyes, begins the slave’s submissive shuffling of his feet, and starts talking about compromise or absurd concepts like “crossing the aisle.” He is not battle hardened from working his way up in business or the military. His knowledge of fighting tactics and what will work in warfare is nothing short of abysmal. Obama is not a warrior or Alexander the Great. He is just a smooth talking, skinny, effete, and moderately progressive lawyer.

These greedy, corrupt, racist, right-wing fanatics who are fighting him are dedicated to his downfall. No compromise was possible with Hitler or the Nazis in WWII, and only with all out combat could the forces of evil be defeated. Obama is a weak man and it is “not his style” to engage in combat.

When the going gets rough President Obama does not even stand up for what he and his supporters believe in. Fragile, weak people like him look pathetic when they go into battle. And they get destroyed.

How incredibly sad it is to see this destruction not only of him but the horrible damage that is being caused to the country. America used to be such a great country. What a pity this is to witness.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama's Apology

President Barack Obama apologized to the racist white cop who arrested the eminent black Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. for being honest to the whiney red neck pig after Obama said that this loser cop acted stupid.

The cop DID act stupid. For heavens sake! If the Harvard Professor had been white you can be sure that his arrogance and/or bad attitude would have been quickly overlooked. Since this professor is black, I am sure that the racist white cop enjoyed trimming his sails a little.

If Obama had said that the cops had “been red neck, dumb ass racists” then maybe he would need to have apologized for using simple minded words. But the cops did act incredibly stupid. He should not have apologized.

Professional law enforcement officers have all received sensitivity training. Apparently this loser sergeant cop needs a little re-education.

When the police (very rarely) accost me, normally it is because I have actually done something wrong. Like driving a bit too fast or something. Because I was raised white and have much more education and life experience than most traffic cops, it is easy for me to act contrite, shuffle my feet, use the word Sir a lot, and keep saying that I am sorry. For one thing, I really am sorry. Sorry I got caught.

But I understand that in the aftermath of slavery and the only partially completed improvements in civil rights, it is much more difficult for a black man to apologize to some bozo uneducated racist cop. Especially when it was his own house which had the stuck door, and he had already shown the dumb ass cop proof that he lived there.

Obama did not owe the policemen any apology. What thecops did was in fact really stupid. But the cops sure as hell owe Dr. Gates a sincere, eyes averted, feet shuffling, big ass honky apology.

One other thing. Now that I am a grumpy old geezer, you can be certain that if I were stopped by the cops for something that I in fact did not do I would bring that to their attention. But I would do it all in a polite, tricky white boy sort of way so that I for sure would not be arrested.
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So When Did It Become Illegal To Be Angry At Cops?

The recent arrest of the eminent Harvard teacher Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. by the Cambridge Police Department shocked me.

Back in the 1960’s civil rights workers became familiar with authoritarian law enforcement officers far exceeding their authority. At Kent State University the government people went so far as to shoot and kill unarmed students. The Wobblies and other labor organizers in the 1930’s sure understood the totalitarian tactics employed by the government people. In the 1800’s the American Indians lost out to the lies and heavy handed tactics of the government people who supposedly were charged with the responsibility to enforce civilized laws, including the protections outlined in the United States Constitution.

Looking back over the history of America it is hard to find a time when ignorant Napoleonic gun toting government workers ever consistently behaved in an appropriate fashion. It is very easy to get carried away with your own sense of self importance when you are wearing a uniform and are openly carrying a firearm. Subtle concepts like “constitutional protections” or “civil rights” are rarely very high on the priorities of either soldiers or cops.

It is not an exaggeration to say that law enforcement officers are frequently less than honest. Dishonest both in their dealings with the public and in the written reports that they file. This is in no way a justification of their deceit, it is just a simple fact of life. It is ingrained in their culture.

Americans are outraged at the actions of the KGB or the Nazi Storm Troopers. This is because the American military and American law enforcement people often engage in very much the same types of activities, just a bit milder. The American legislative branch in Washington D.C. is thwarting President Obama from closing the entirely illegal torture camp at Guantanamo. Recent reports even suggest that the CIA or other secret police forces funded by the U.S. Government may still be engaged in torture.

America continues to assassinate foreigners who we do like and do not agree with. Now we are doing it with unmanned aerial vehicles, rather than using hit squads. What difference does it make? These people are still dead, and without the benefit of ever being charged or convicted. Just someone in the American government decided “off with his head.” It no longer is even the King who is making this decision. Just some glorified government clerk.

Everyone carries a cell phone nowadays. My advice is: Always, without exception, if you are having any sort of a conversation with a law enforcement person (or for that matter anyone who works for the government), turn on the recorder function on your phone. Always record any conversations and interactions. These government people will certainly have an entirely different story afterwards, both about what you said and did and also about how they acted and what they said.
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Slowing Down Health Care Reform

I am in favor of slowing the process down a bit. But not for the same reason as the greedy reactionary right wing, which wants to completely kill the implementation of universal health care.

President Obama knows how important it is to fix the system. Fifty million people in America do not have access the health care because they do not have any health insurance. Another fifty million people, maybe more, who do have health insurance could easily be forced into bankruptcy by one major illness or accident in their family. And simple greed has completely corrupted the health care system in America, where it is now mostly about getting rich rather than providing for the sick and injured members of society.

President Obama saw his mother having to continually fight with health insurance companies towards the end of her losing battle with cancer. He understands, or as Paul Krugman says, “He gets it.”

The problem is that this is all being done way too hastily. In a silly attempt to try and slip this past the ignorant right-wing before they could get mobilized, too much emphasis has been placed on haste. Don’t underrate these greedy Republican bastards. They are not as stupid as they look, and they are not the least bit afraid to fight really dirty.

The reality is that the government paid universal health care systems in Canada, Australia, and England work. Everyone is covered, these health care systems work far better than the system in America, and they cost MUCH less. Better results at a lower cost. There would be immediate revolutions in each of these countries if their government tried to change over to the American system of health care.

Americans, especially the Republicans, seem perfectly happy to waste many billions of dollars each year. Especially if some of that money goes to enrich the major campaign contributors of the Republican politicians.

During the presidential campaign Obama said unambiguously that he favored changing over to a single payer universal health care system. This is the only program which will achieve the desired results: Universal health care and a huge decrease in cost. Making this transformation from the greed and brutality of the enormously wealthy health insurance corporations who are in control now, to a more effective single payer type system will not be easy. There are powerful and corrupt entrenched interests who will fight dishonestly and dirty as hell in order to keep these vast profits flowing and to keep this greed operating the way it has been.

To get these forces of evil back under control some toes will have to be stepped on, and some people are going to get black eyes to say the least. We already have learned that President Obama seems to be sort of a sissy. He always seems to buckle under to the bullies. He calls this crossing the aisle, finding the middle ground, or compromise. But what it really amounts to is a genuine lack of moral fiber or strength of character on the part of the President. When faced with certain situations a leader cannot in good conscience just lie down and play dumb.

Eloquence is nice. Obama’s intelligence is wonderful. But the time has come for Barack Obama to fight. He now has to behave like a leader. Barack, show everyone your true strength of character. It is now time to stand up to these corrupt greedy bullies.
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Henry Louis Gates Jr


Certain personality types are attracted to certain professions. These are not stereotypes, they are realities.

Fighter pilots in the air forces around the world tend to be highly self confident (read a little arrogant). An entirely different personality type fits in best and prospers in the profession of lab technician.

There are some well educated, well rounded and sensitive police officers. But even many cops will privately admit that many of their colleagues are heavy handed, emotionally unstable, politically right wing types who get off on being on a little bit of a power trip. Worldwide the law enforcement profession is commonly known for their rampant dishonesty, and sometimes even for their corruption.

No doubt Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was suffering from jet lag when the Cambridge police accosted and arrested him in his upper class home. If he had just been some gutter alcoholic or crack addicted prostitute I’m sure he wouldn’t have been arrested for calling the cops racists. I’ll bet that their lower class upbringing and poor education caused them to be really offended that a black man could be a Harvard professor and live in such a fine house.

You can be certain that if Professor Gates had been a white male he certainly would not have been arrested. The cops would have probably helped him with the stuck door. My guess is that Professor Gates was 100% right, and the Cambridge police were behaving like 100% racist red necks.
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24 Hour News Cycle

Recently I have found myself getting deeply into the insanity of the 24 hour news cycle. For the most part this does not make one better informed, it just makes you more paranoid.

The forces of the Dark Lord Voldemort and Mordor have been massing (read as republicans, bigots, racists, and the right wing). It has begun to look doubtful that Harry Potter or Frodo Baggins could possibly succeed in their battle against such intense evil.

President Obama telling these evil bastards that “this is not some kind of a game helped.” A little bit. In my mind’s eye I can see those nasty, mean, spiteful, and malevolent republican Congressmen and Senators smirking, poking each other in the ribs, and laughing to each other. Rush Limbaugh and Fox News are just eating this up.

Forget about the 50 million people who do not have health insurance for a moment. Imagine the middle class people who DO have health insurance but have to go bankrupt because of one major accident or illness. We need to realize that the insurance companies are not there to serve their policyholders, hard working loyal employees, or their families. The goal of insurance companies is to make profits for their shareholders, to increase the value of their corporate stock, and very importantly to provide large compensation packages for the top executives of these insurance companies. The easiest way to do this is do deny coverage, have unrealistic upper limits on coverage, and to terminate the policies of sick people.

I could not bring myself to watch President Obama’s television address on health care yesterday evening. I have already done all I can to help him. Reading Paul Krugman’s blog this morning it looks like Obama was articulate and has a clear picture of the situation. Krugman says that Obama “gets it.” The democrats have a clear majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives. So get tough and use everything you have got Mr. President!!

The above metaphor comparing these forces of evil to Mordor, Sauron, and Lord Voldemort felt really good. I think I’ll do a bit more. But I want to be careful not to overstate my distaste for these people.

These reactionary republicans who are working to make health care which actually works available only to the rich and powerful caste are horrible, sick, evil bastards. Wicked, disgusting, immoral, dishonest, corrupt, depraved, low-down degenerate sons of bitches. One of the more revolting parts is to see the spectacle of these repulsive, nauseating republicans ingenuously wrapping themselves in the American Flag and thumping on the Bible. The opponents of universal health care in America are miserable soulless beings who make orcs and dementors seem rather pleasant to be around.

I wish I were more articulate and could better express my distaste for these ignorant right wing creatures.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

That Is Not My Style

Yesterday a well known (and friendly) television journalist from PBS asked President Obama about the progress of universal health care legislation. He asked him politely, “Mr. President, don’t you think it is about time for you to twist a few arms?” like LBJ would have done.

Barack Obama answered “That is not my style.” I heard him. It is past time for the common voters in this American Democracy to discover just what Obama’s style is. We didn’t think his style was one of “losing” but maybe we were wrong.

Since Eisenhower, America has been pretty unsuccessful at electing good presidents. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato wrote at length about the best way for a democracy to insure that it elects good leaders. Candidates for leadership positions have to be well educated in book learning but also widely experienced in life. They should not be involved in politics just because they hope this profession will make them rich and powerful. They must be true leaders, not just successful clerks, pussy chasers, greed driven crooks, or Napoleonic dictators. They cannot be cowards who always shy away from a fight. A president’s biggest fights usually occur not with other countries, but with the other elected officials in Washington D.C., i.e. the nation’s congressmen and senators.

Kennedy had problems with his addiction to prescription drugs, and spent too much of his energy having affairs with women like Marilyn Monroe. Johnson’s voice marked him as an ignorant southerner, even though some of the country’s best civil rights legislation came out of his skill and dedication. Indeed Johnson may go down in history as one of the country’s finest presidents.

Reagan had a deep, resonant voice which made us feel good inside. His training and life experiences as an actor meant that he could read his lines with great sincerity. But as a president he was just a tool, doing a good job of reading his lines. Nixon (Tricky Dicky) was a detestable, mentally ill man. Ford was a nice man of good character, but not of outstanding intellect or ideas. Carter had been in the military where he had learned a bit about nuclear energy. He and his wife cared about many of the right things, but he was far too much of a true believer in the Christian religious faith, and he proved that he was not a leader of men.

Bill Clinton’s ethics were weak. As has been proven since he stepped down from the presidency, having been raised poor in a single parent environment, getting rich and famous was very important to him. The methods Slick Willy Clinton used for getting rich can be questioned. Bush I was a glorified clerk with the voice of a young girl, and his son Bush II was an ignorant, poorly educated, ex-alcoholic who had no pretence of being a leader. Both Clinton and Bush II actively went out of their way to avoid military service to their country. If a president is going to send young people off to die on foreign soil, he should have first-hand experience serving in the military, and not just in peace time but in actual combat.

So let’s take another look at Obama. Raised poor in a single parent environment. The father, who quickly disappeared, was from Africa. Obama’s mother was a dedicated person from a decent hard working family. Barack Obama is very smart, and he performed quite well in the academic environment. He did not choose to serve in the nation’s military. He did not work his way up through the weeding-out process of the hyper competitive environment of business. His history does not show that he has had experience in leadership, or that he has ever been successful as a seasoned and proven leader of men.

During the long campaign for the Presidency he was extremely eloquent in espousing great ideas. He said that he was in favor of science based research (stem cells) and supportive of the constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state. He wanted to end the wars, bring the troops home, and stop spending such a vast amount of money on warfare. Instead the size of the military is actually expanding under Obama.

He painted a sincere picture of wanting to work across the lines and end all the partisan bickering in Washington. Bush II said the said the exact same stuff when he was running for President.

Obama openly and clearly stated that he supported single payer universal health care. He had a wonderful but sad story he would tell about his own mother fighting with health insurance companies as she was dying from cancer.

We are now six months into the Obama presidency and we have learned more about him. He immediately surrounded himself with the same types of Wall Street accountants and economists that the prior administrations had gotten horrible advice from. He had hidden the fact from the voters that in 2009 he was still a closet smoker who didn’t have to strength of character to totally quit smoking. The worker’s trade unions have not gained strength because this liberal guy was elected to the presidency. Jobs going overseas has not slowed. The gays have been very unsatisfied with his performance.

He has not ended the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, and spending on the military is still increasing. His support for single payer universal health care has apparently vanished. The vicious and ignorant right wingers have voted against his proposals 100% of the time. He has been no more successful at ending the bickering or uniting Washington than Bush II was.

It looks suspiciously like 6 months into his presidency Obama has already lost the battle. Even with a clear democratic majority in both the house and the senate. Obama’s personal lack of backbone has meant that an increasingly large number of people from the progressive side of the political spectrum are giving up on him. We see now that Barack Obama is apparently nothing but a big sissy. A coward who is afraid of a fight. “Not my style.”

Oh dear, oh dear. And the times are so serious. We had hoped for a real leader.
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lying Down With Dogs

Ben Franklin said that if you associate with dogs you can expect to get fleas. An allegory describing the types of people one chooses to hang around with.

I have decided that I do not have enough time left here on Earth to any longer associate with pedophiles, racists, reactionaries, or republicans.
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President Obama

I supported Obama in the primaries and general election campaign. The ideas that he expressed are far and away superior to the open greed and dishonesty of the Republicans.

But I must say I am not happy about the wars. He was elected to end the wars and bring the troops home. Instead I read today that:

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has announced plans to temporarily expand the U.S. Army by 22,000 troops. The move comes in response to the demands of the U.S. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and will initially be for a period of three years.The additional troops will bring the total number of US soldiers to 569,000.


If he is successful in getting universal health care implemented then I am certain that most people will be forgiving about many of changes in his thinking that have taken place since he has become President.

But if he fails in getting universal health care implemented, then all bets are off for him and for the Democratic majority.
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Universal Health Care


Fellow CLL patient David Arenson has posted an interesting map on his blog. This map shows those countries which have universal health care.

It is shocking how few civilized countries do not. Click on the map and it will enlarge.
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Chemotherapy

The world renowned leukemia specialist Dr. Terry Hamblin treated me early in my battle with CLL. He is retired now and sadly has developed abdominal cancer.

He has been undergoing chemotherapy in treating his cancer. His most recent blog entry eloquently deals with just how terrible these treatments can be.

http://mutated-unmuated.blogspot.com/2009/07/more-health-news.html

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The Market

This morning at the supermarket I was buying some toothpaste. I happened to notice that the exact same type of Colgate was offered in a 6 oz size, a smaller size, a larger size container, and two each 6 oz tubes bundled together as a special deal. As one would expect, the small tube was much more expensive per ounce of product, but surprisingly so was the larger size. What was really amazing was that it was cheaper to buy two separate 6 oz tubes of Colgate toothpaste than the two 6 oz tubes bundled together at a “special” price!

I was telling the lady at the checkout register this, and I mentioned that it didn’t matter one bit what price the several bags of Clementine oranges I was buying were, because they were so good. I informed her that they used to be called White Glove Oranges because supposedly one could peel them while wearing white gloves.

When I got home I saw that these clementines were grown in Chile. Look on the map. Chile is in the southern hemisphere and is a long way away. Chile is a narrow but VERY long country. It is about 2,600 miles from North to South. This is how wide America is from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.

I guess my sales pitch on how good these clementines were was successful, because the checkout lady asked if she could have one. She said that if she liked it she would also buy some. I told her sure, so she took one of the clementines out of the bag I had just purchased.
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Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry is a smart man and an excellent performer. I like and admire him a lot. I have been on his mailing list for some time. I got a disturbing mass e-mailing from him today ranting about how some of the media talked badly about Michael Jackson after his recent drug overdose.

For years Michael Jackson was a great dancer and singer. Most of the media reported his death in a dignified manner, only remembering his positive aspects. After all, the guy was never convicted of child molestation, so to any patriotic American he has to be thought of as completely innocent. But then OJ was not convicted of murder in the criminal courts either…

Michael Jackson was a drug addict of epic proportions. Like Elvis or that Republican red neck radio talk show host who is so addicted to hillbilly heroin (oxycontin). This poor man was a great performer, but he led a very troubled life which seems to also have had many shaky financial dealings.

It is unfortunate that Tyler Perry has gotten so upset over this. Michael Jackson was a good performer, but his behavior and his life were certainly no model that any of us would want our children to follow. It is irrelevant whether this guy was white, brown, yellow, or black. This criticism of Michael Jackson may indeed be mostly racism, but it is not necessarily so. Gaining fame and fortune through drug addiction and show business is a horrible way to lead your life.
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It is certainly responsible for some people in the media to remind us of this negative side of the picture too.
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The Capitol Of The World

I was watching the Travel Channel last night on DVD. An episode of the excellent show called “No Reservations Required” was being shown, presented by the New York celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. In it he described China as the upcoming capitol of the world.

I think he sees it exactly right.

In China companies are not burdened with pesky little details like enforcement of product safety, workplace safety for their employees, or environmental pollution laws. They don’t have the massive burden of providing health insurance or old age pensions for their employees, and they certainly don’t have to worry about their employees organizing into some kind of a trade union. Governmental corruption is rampant, so if there is a little problem of some kind, it can usually be solved by paying a small “gratuity” to the right government official.

It sounds just like the kind of country that the Republicans in America would like.
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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Anti-Depressants

I have been struck by all the slick, expensive commercials that I see on TV for various prescription antidepressants and mood altering chemicals. There is one now which you are supposed to ask your doctor to prescribe for you which is intended to be taken in addition to the other antidepressants you are already taking, when the drugs you are already ingesting have not yet made you completely oblivious to how much your particular life sucks.

This whole thing makes me feel really uncomfortable. It makes me think of Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. Except of course that their lives didn’t suck at all. They were immensely wealthy and adored by their fans.

You don’t solve the problems and difficulties in your life by taking drugs. That is the Alice In Wonderland approach. This path only leads to drug addiction. Drug addiction can ruin your life.

It reminds me of a few hundred years ago when the British Government was sponsoring the sales of opium (heroin) in China. The Chinese Government didn’t particularly appreciate this, and they tried to stop it. So the British sent in their military and imposed their will with force. Look it up. Honest.

If you are unhappy because your life sucks, the answer is to work on the root causes of your unhappiness. Not to try and mask your problems by becoming a drug addict or alcoholic. Duh….

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Progressive Taxation

The type of society one sees in Mexico today is the inevitable result of a country where the concept of rule-of-law is almost irrelevant, and where any attempt to provide some leveling of income through progressive taxation is clearly not present.

The Republicans in America should feel very comfortable with the situation that is taking place in Mexico. This is what enormous wealth put side by side with corruption and back breaking poverty looks like.

America has a long history of progressive taxation, but for the last 50 years the right wing has been doing its best to discredit the concept. Due to the passivity of intellectuals and the left wing, ignorant politicians and drug addicted radio talk show hosts have been fairly successful in their continued attack on progressive taxation.

These people on the far right wrap themselves in the flag while prominently carrying a bible in their hand. They use any kind of dishonest or brutal tactic available to destroy the people who would try to moderate this greed.

The current battle over health care in America is part of this. One hundred million people in America are either completely uninsured or underinsured in such a way that just one big disease or major accident would force them into bankruptcy. Workers keep their eyes averted and their noses down just so that they won’t lose their job, and thus lose the health insurance for their family. If you are owned by the company store you are less likely to be a trouble maker and talk about things like workplace safety or fair treatment of people.

I realized a few days ago that having grown up in the 1950s I fell completely for the right wing propaganda that America Is Always Best. America is the richest nation, and we always insist on doing what it proper and right. This is of course a big load of hog wash, but a young child doesn’t have the education or life experience to see through one-sided descriptions like this.

It has taken me many years of world travel, interacting with people of many different cultures, post graduate education, reading, and trying to keep my eyes, ears, and mind open to see through these party-line lies and half truths.

Greed is rapidly destroying America. But this is really quite normal and indeed almost to be expected. All really successful “super power” cultures so far in the entire history of mankind have gone through the evolution of rise, a period of enormous wealth, and then the fall. Just look at today’s Greeks, Romans, Persians, Dutch, or even the British. Pathetic, weak imitations of what they were at one time. America is well on its way on the downward portion of the curve. Some of the Democrats, the left wing, and enlightened people like Barack Obama are trying to reverse this downward spiral.

So far at least I do not see an indication of any reversal. Maybe there is a slight slowing down, but like global warming was at one time, it is hard to verify. I don’t see anything in America remotely approaching a return to leadership (rather than greedy, corrupt politicians openly on the take), honesty in government, or a widespread belief in social fairness.

Thinking back over the various alcoholics I have known over the years reminds me of one important lesson. You can’t solve the problem until you openly acknowledge that it exists.

We won’t be effective in trying to turn America around if we are caught up in the traps of greed, acquisitiveness, buying a large fancy house, and we are driving a big V8 car which gets horrible fuel economy.
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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Time Team America

The PBS TV show Time Team America is very poorly done. This is a knock off of one of the most successful British TV shows of all time which is called Time Team.

Professor Mick Aston and Phil Harding of the UK show are experienced and well educated. Plus they are just really nice people who the viewing public finds appealing. They are the types of people who you would like to invite over to your house for dinner.

The American knock off show called Time Team America has prominent characters who are not terribly well educated, are very inexperienced, and are revolting and repulsive.

Whoever hired the on-air staff for Time Team America needs to have his ass solidly kicked as he is thrown out the door. The same goes for his/her supervisor who clearly wasn't providing proper oversight.
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Dementia

Walter Cronkite just died at age 92. He son says he died from complications of dementia.

I have known a lot of old geezers who had much sharper brains than most 25 year olds have. But I have also known and loved a couple of old folks whose brain stopped working properly long before their body gave out.

This is a torture that is far worse than merely getting sick and dying. A slow death of who YOU once were, your accomplishments, failures, and memories; your ability to experience joy, beauty, and love. Just thinking about it makes me shudder.

I also remember two people who I deeply loved. Each when they got old ended up lying in a hospital bed, covered with bed sores (and sometimes feces), and with their hands and legs tied to the bed frame to keep them from removing all the intravenous tubes or escaping.

I keep a .44 caliber magnum handgun handy primarily for this reason. No stinky old folks hospital death for me Bro. No way Jose’. I intend to either die peacefully in my sleep, in bed with another man’s wife (just kidding), or I will make the choice of when I wish to depart the building.


Memo To My Loved Ones: If I screw up and get so senile that I can’t remember the above resolution, please show me what I wrote back when I still had my act together. If that doesn’t work, then take me out of my misery. You would do it for a dog that you loved…
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Political Cartoon

This is Tony Auth in today's New York Times.


Thinking In Metric

I was raised in America but during my adult life I spent almost 20 years living in Europe. So I can visualize and feel in my gut 70 miles per hour just as clearly as I can visualize 120 kilometers per hour. I can speak either language. I’m completely bilingual. One yard is essentially equal to one meter. I don’t even have to think about this. The same with millimeters, whether you say 8 mm, 35 mm, or 150 mm. I just feel it.

And granted, there are some genuine mathematical advantages to the metric system.

In height above sea level I never did get good at using meters though. Feet above MSL just feels better. In temperature I know intellectually that 0 degrees C is where water freezes, 100 degrees C is the temperature at which water boils, and 20 to 22 degrees C is a comfortable room temperature (18 is better for me). In fact about half of the digital thermometers that I have around the house are set to display degrees Centigrade, with the others showing the room temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.

Living in the desert, I feel that degrees F is far more descriptive when it is really hot outside. For example, the difference between 95 degrees F and 105 degrees F is really enormous. 95 degrees F can feel pretty comfortable if the humidity is relatively low, you are in the shade, and there is a nice breeze blowing. But 105 degrees F is a killer any way that you look at it. When described in centigrade it is 37.8 degrees compared with 40.6 degrees. Centigrade just doesn’t seems as descriptive to me.
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Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece was where democracy was founded. This took place about 2,500 to 2,000 years ago. There were a lot of wonderful things going on at that time and place.

Some of the finest pottery ever made was crafted by the ancient Greeks. The same applies to sculpture made by them from marble and bronze. This includes the world famous Venus de Milo now located in the Louvre in Paris, and a great many others around the world including the Vatican Museum located in Rome and the British Museum in London. I have spent some time in the Vatican Museums, have visited the British Museum several times, and gone to the Louvre in Paris more times than I can remember or count.

The Venus de Milo is slightly larger than life size at 203 cm (6 ft 8 in) high. From an inscription which was on the plinth of this lovely sculpture, she is thought to be the work of Alexandros of Antioch having been made during the period of about 130 BC to 100 BC.

After seeing an incredibly fine-looking life sized marble statue of Aphrodite or Venus in the city of Nicosia on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea in the early 1970s, I had dreams about her for many years. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Over the course of the last 60 years I have been friends with many attractive women, and I am still not sure that she was not the most beautiful of any of them.

The Parthenon on the Acropolis hill in Athens is one of the world's most perfect buildings and one of the greatest cultural monuments. It was built during the period of 447 BC - 432 BC. I was fortunate to have visited it before the current restoration began which has now been going on for more than thirty years.

The Ancient Greeks had tremendous achievements in the fields of philosophy, democracy, medicine, sculpture, and architecture, but they weren’t sedentary intellectuals. They also enjoyed and believed in intense physical exercise and sports. The ancient Olympic Games were held in Olympia, Greece from the 8th century BC until the 5th century AD, i.e., for more than 1,000 years.

Socrates is often thought of as one of the fathers of western philosophy. He lived from 469 BC - 399 BC. He was not some mythical character, he was an actual man. There are many accounts of him in the writings of Plato and also in the works of Xenophon, Aristotle, and Aristophanes. These provide good historical documentation and many insights about the guy. One of my favorite historical descriptions of him comes from his wife. She goes on at length talking about what a lousy husband and father he is, how lazy he is, and that he often drinks way too much.

One of the more important men in ancient Greece is the well documented in Greek physician Hippocrates of Kos. He is often described as the "father of modern medicine.” He lived during the period 460 BC - 370 BC.

After the Greek empire declined and the Roman Empire came to its ascendancy 200 - 300 years later there are a great many people who are well documented historically, both in writings by themselves and others and in the grand things they built.

An example of these well documented historical figures is Hadrian. He originally came from the area that today we call Spain. He was born on January 24, 76 and died roughly 62 years later on July 10, 138. Today intellectuals describe him as a Stoic and an Epicurean philosopher. He was also Emperor of the Roman Empire for 21 years from 117 AD to 138 AD. Hadrian built a massive wall spanning the entire width of England separating it from the modern day Scotland. Hadrian's Wall was 80 Roman miles long (73.5 statute miles or 117 kilometers). I have visited it several times and have walked along big parts of it. Hadrian also built a large and incredible villa at Tivoli, Italy. Hadrian's villa consisted of a complex of at least 30 buildings, which covered an area of at least 1 square kilometer (250 acres) which I spent a full day visiting a few years ago. In my coin collection I have several 2,000 year old Roman coins which were minted during Hadrian's reign. He was a good looking guy who sported a beard.

One of the reasons I have described these famous historical figures is to point out that there is massive and incontrovertible proof that these people actually lived. They were not myths or Gods. They put on their pants one leg at a time, and sometimes were in bad moods, pensive, horny, had hangovers, ate too much, or had upset stomachs.

I have travelled widely in the area that today we call Israel. From Jerusalem to Nazareth, Bethlehem, Lake Tiberius (the sea of Galilee), the Jordan River, and the Dead Sea. I was raised as a Christian, baptized, and confirmed in the American Anglican Church. As a young man I even helped the padre out during the Sunday services, wearing that long black dress. No, the guy never sexually abused me, made any sexual comments, or even looked at me in a suggestive way. But I couldn’t help noticing that before the main Sunday services he would strongly shore up himself by repeatedly taking enormous swigs off the holy wine jug. I have attended Sunday church services in the beautiful cathedral that Charlemagne built in Aachen, Germany more than 1,200 years ago and also at the historical Westminster Abbey in London.

All of this is intended as a preface to my saying that there is no reputable historical evidence that the carpenter from Nazareth actually existed. None. The gospels were written many years after his death. One can say that there is some logic to this; he was not some rich emperor, just a poor carpenter who had been born out of wedlock. I don’t know. Much of what Jesus is supposed to have said makes a great deal of sense to me, but there are big questions about whether the guy really lived or is just a myth/story that has grown up over the years.

Plato is one of the most well documented historical figures from Ancient Greece. Like the other great men described above, Plato was no saint. But he certainly was one of the finest intellects ever to have lived. He was born in about 428 BC and died in 348 BC). Plato was a writer, a Classical Greek philosopher, and a mathematician. He was also the founder of the Academy in Athens, which was the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.

I first began studying Plato forty years ago, and for some time now I have been spending a few hours every morning (while my brain is at its sharpest) reading and studying Plato.

Since the ancient Greeks are normally regarded as the fathers of democracy, now seems like a very good time to be studying them. When in the democratic country of America the voters overwhelming vote for one candidate, but another candidate usurps the election and remains president; when America openly and officially supports torture and indefinite detention of people who have not had the opportunity to present their side of the story in a court of law; when the execution by death squads or drone missile attacks of people who the rich and powerful in American don’t agree with is a daily occurrence; when the Wall Street Barons openly steal the pensions from millions of working citizens and then get bailed out by the American Government; and when 100 million people either do not have health insurance or are so grossly underinsured that one major illness or accident could bankrupt them, one could rightly question whether the political system that America has in the 21st century is a Democracy or whether it is just some corrupt, bastardized imitation or representation of Democracy which comes complete with sham elections.

At a later date I will describe what I think about Plato, his ideas, and how I think they relate to what is happening in the 21st century.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Warehouse 13


Without any doubt the show called Warehouse 13 is the finest new show on TV right now. It is on the SyFy channel and also on Hulu.

Really, you need to check this out.
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Green Tea as a CLL Treatment

The Mayo Clinic performed a clinical trial using green tea as a leukemia treatment from 2003 to 2009, and the results of the trial have now been published. I am not a physician, nor have I had any medical training. None. I am just a CLL patient who is doing his best to try and be well informed.

The active ingredient in green tea extract is EGCG (chemical name epigallocatechin-3-gallate). It is not present in sufficient quantities in actual brewed green tea to do any good at all. To get enough to have any effect these people took as many ten capsules of the concentrated green tea extract more than once each day.

What the experts at the Mayo Clinic found was that in some cases people taking vast quantities of green tea extract did see some reduction in size to the swollen lymph nodes of these CLL patients. Unfortunately the dosage required in order to see any meaningful reduction of lymph node size was also high enough to potentially cause liver damage. The Mayo Clinic trial of green tea extract clearly demonstrated that even when sufficiently high doses were taken which can result in serious organ damage, green tea absolutely did not cure CLL.

In virtually all cases, Chronic Lymphocitic Leukemia remains incurable. The doctors continue to do lot of study, but as of 2009 most therapies used by them to treat the disease primarily serve to improve the quality of life of the CLL patients. Please e-mail me if you think that what I am saying is incorrect, but it is my understanding that there have been no organized trials of any of these drugs which prove a meaningful improvement in lifespan. Most of these treatments are just going for a temporary remission. And unfortunately most of the therapies that are currently in vogue further reduce the functioning of the body’s already poorly operating immune system.

I remember quite well all the furor it caused when Dr. Terry Hamblin said (and I am paraphrasing him here) that “alternative treatments for the most part did not cause significant harm to the patient. But that these alternative treatments all had one thing in common: They did not work. If they did work these alternative treatments would cease to be alternative and would become mainstream treatments.” When I met Dr. Hamblin in Southern England in the summer of 2005 we discussed many different things. He is a funny, well read, and very bright man. He gave me some excellent advice on sites to see while I was visiting Dorset. One the things we discussed was green tea. He was skeptical that it was beneficial for CLL patients, and this Mayo Clinic study does indeed seem to validate his skepticism.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Polarization of America

The last 25 years have been a period of increasing polarization politically in America. The rich have been getting richer and the distance between them and the poor and middle class has widened greatly.

The Republican party seems to be dying. The right wing is getting meaner, nastier, and more dishonest. The hope that compromise between the right and the left might be possible seems increasingly unrealistic.

Taking a longer term view though, there have been many eras in America’s short lifespan where there was extreme polarization. I knew my maternal grandmother quite well, and she remembered the immediate aftermath of the American civil war. She had very intense opinions about it.

The current level of political polarization in America is fairly minor when compared with the intensity of feelings in the 1930’s and the early 1970’s.

After the chicanery of Reagan and the two Bushes continually reducing taxation on the wealthy, it is entirely appropriate for people to be upset by the massive corruption and what has generally been happening in the American political situation.

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Deniers

Almost 6% of the American public still believe that man never actually landed on the moon. This is a large number of people believing in such lunacy.

Apparently there are a lot of similarities between the Moon Landing Deniers and those who insist that the 9-11 attacks were planned by the U.S. Government, the people who think that President Obama’s birth certificate is a fake, the Holocaust Deniers, and those who still believe that mankind’s environmental depredations and the addition of massive amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere are not causing Global Warming.

These people are intellectually lazy. Or maybe just not at all bright. It doesn’t take very much study to learn that all these “deniers” are patently absurd.
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Cheney’s Death Squads

I read in today’s news that the openly homosexual daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney has loyally come out in support of her father.

Is seems that she feels that is was perfectly OK for her father to organize and send secret death squads around the world to assassinate any of those evil people that he and his cronies didn’t like or agree with. She supported her father’s decision to do this in total secrecy, with Mr. Cheney ordering the CIA to not disclose anything about the program to Congress. Although they are often ineffective, Congress is the American branch of government whose job it is to provide oversight.

Yes, the Nazis and the KGB would have agreed with Mr. Cheney that it is often so much simpler to do these kinds of things in secret without all those petty annoyances like checks and balances, civil rights, democracy, or the rule-of-law.
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Monday, July 13, 2009

Camera Filters

Back in the bad old days of emulsion and chemicals, filters were important. Especially if you were shooting transparencies (slides) you had no chance to change the picture once you pressed on the shutter. You could also do strange things to the contrast of a black and white shot if you used a colored filter. But now most of this kind of work is done with Photoshop or its imitators.

With digital cameras there still are two filters, maybe 3, which are useful. The most useful is a UV filter. This basically protects your expensive lens from sticky or greasy fingers and doggie noses. Nothing much more.

The most useful “genuine” filter is a circular polarizing filter. It can be used to reduce reflections greatly or to make the sky look bluer than it is in real life.

The last filter is just plain fun to play with. It is a star light filter. You don’t ever actually use it after you get done playing with it initially, but it still is nice.
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Barack Obama

I detest all the right wing liars and crooks in politics and the news media. Republicans, FOX News, and the fat drug addict entertainer called Rush who leads these conservatives all make me want to vomit.

I really like what Barack Obama stands for, and I also like him as a human being. But I keep being reminded that one part of him is a just a cigarette smoking, hack Chicago machine politician.

Have you noticed that as a supporter you are never provided with an email address where you can legitimately contact him or any of his close lieutenants? They never answer any emails from us supporters and contributors either. Obama has not ended the wars, and he is not supporting a single payer health care plan at all. But he and his associates end every single email with a strong appeal for you to send them more money.

When Obama was trying to get elected this constant appeal for funds was understandable. But six months after being inaugurated as President it is beginning to look more and more like some kind of a Chicago machine politics slush fund. They don’t ever specify what they are going to use the money for, and there certainly is never any disclosure of how much total money has been collected or where all this money has actually been spent. This lack of transparency is beginning to look like it might involve political corruption.

Like I say, I certainly am no brain dead, xenophobic, right wing racist. But I am beginning to get pretty unhappy with the Obama administration too.
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Health Care in America

I received a very pleasant letter today from Kathryn Jones who works for the Massachusetts School of Law. She agrees with me and many others that the recent Bill Moyers PBS show on health care was absolutely incredible.

At the Massachusetts School of Law they produce their own TV shows as a public service. They have a number of videos which explore health care in America.
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This is a link to the full length interview of Dr. Arnold Relman about his excellent book entitled “A Second Opinion - Rescuing America’s Health Care.” Doctor Relman was previously the editor of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fihXqVdb6Bg&feature=PlayList&p=E0B78612C8079029&index=11
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This is a link to some of their other excellent videos about health care in America: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=E0B78612C8079029
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Sarah Palin

The former beauty queen and quitter one partial-term ex-Alaskan governor Sarah Palin says that she intends to stay active in politics. Apparently it is her plan to begin the process by travelling around campaigning for various ignorant right wing politicians who are up for reelection, both Republicans and Democrats.

I am all for it. I give her a big smile and thumbs up.

She is so poorly informed and so incredibly badly educated that she causes a great deal of damage where ever she goes. A large portion of the wise and reasonable leadership of the Republican Party absolutely abhors her.

The Republican Party is now mostly made up of ignorant religious fanatic southerners and rural folks. These are good people, and I like them. Honest. But they are a very small minority of this country which is increasingly urban and multi-cultural.

So go get it you winker of an ex-beauty queen. I really like and enjoy watching Tina Fey; this will be a reason to keep her more in the limelight.
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