Monday, November 30, 2009

Poverty In America

I see in today's news that 25% of the children in America now receive government assistance – food stamps. These families are suffering so badly that the kids don't have enough to eat.

Just to set the record straight: We have enough money in America to bail out the Wall Street crooks, and we have have sufficient resources to fight wars without asking the taxpayers to chip in and help pay for the warfare, but our people don't have enough money to feed themselves. Many people don't have health insurance, are behind on their mortgage payments, and yet President Obama is talking about sending more soldiers into war overseas?



http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/29/us/29foodstamps.html?_r=1&pagewanted=1&hp

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Obama's Big Sellout

The latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine arrived today. It has an official date of December 10, 2009. It contains a very good and in-depth article entitled “Obama’s Big Sellout.”

The article argues that “the president has packed his economic team with Wall Street insiders intent on turning the bailout into an all-out giveaway.” It says that “the Rubin-centric appointments may well represent the most sweeping influence by a single Wall Street insider in history” and further argues that “while Obama gave Rubin’s acolytes all the important jobs, progressives got banished to semi-meaningless, even comical roles.”

I worked to get Barack Obama elected, both the primary and general elections. Even at worst he certainly is better than any of his opponents, both Republican and Democrat. But my support is beginning to wear thin.

Obama has no balls. He has not ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he has not brought the troops home. Guantanamo has not been closed. Even if the so called health care reform eventually gets passed, it is clearly not anything close to universal health care. Nor will it stop the vast chicanery going on inside of the health insurance companies.

Maybe he is completely ignorant of economics. He at least should have all sides of the argument at the table. But he doesn’t. Only the right wing capitalists are there. Wall Street and the super rich should love Obama. But he hasn’t done much for the middle class in America.

All in all I give him a pretty poor report card so far. I guess he gets a few points for style, and he is indeed far superior to Cheney-Bush. But by his behavior and results he is behaving more and more like a Republican in Democrat’s clothing.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Terabyte Hard Drive

When I first began using personal computers your programs and data were stored on cassette tapes. Then 5-1/4” floppy discs. I had 16k of RAM, and when my brother upgraded to 64k of RAM I was horribly envious.

I remember getting a tour of the regional air traffic control center here in El Paso, Texas. The tour guide proudly pointed out their Winchester hard drive. It sat of the floor and looked like a tall end table. It had a capacity of 256k. Yes, 256 thousand!

My brother Michael Dwight Garland got his degree in electric engineering. He was an honor graduate of UT El Paso, and he worked as a computer programmer for Texas Instruments in Dallas before becoming an owner of a high tech start up firm in the DFW area.

When my brother told me that one of his friends had a hard drive with a capacity of 1 gigabyte I seriously thought it might be possible that Mike was lying to me. One gigabyte is 1,000,000,000 bytes or 1,000 megabytes.

Today for just over $100- I bought a 1-1/2 terabyte external hard drive. A terabyte is 1,000,000,000,000 bytes or 1,000 gigabytes. Even though I do a lot of digital photography, I don’t really need a hard drive quite that big…I sort of bought it in honor of my brother.

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Desecration Of The Dead

El Paso, Texas has 700,000 people, and if our sister city of Juarez is included we have well over two million inhabitants. In a metropolitan area this large there are many cemeteries including a national military cemetery. Almost without exception the dead buried in these cemeteries are provided with all appropriate respect and decorum.

There is one notable exception: Concordia Cemetery. By American standards it is fairly old. Many graves there date to the mid-1800s. On their web site the group which is trying to preserve the cemetery says:

“Buried here are over 60,000 people including gunfighter John Wesley Hardin, Buffalo Soldiers, Texas Rangers, Civil War Veterans, early Mormon pioneers, Florida (Lady Flo) Wolf, Lawman John Selman and was formerly the first burial site for Mexican Revolution President Victoriano Huerta and numerous other civic leaders, pioneers, and war veterans.”

The Concordia Heritage Association has recently been fostering a carnival atmosphere at the cemetery. Dressing up as 1800’s prostitutes and murderers (gun fighters) they stage simulated gun fights. As a fund raising project they have formed a close alliance with a rather peculiar group of paranormal ghost hunters. Together they have been exploiting the dead by encouraging late night tours, where people are encouraged to believe that they see ghosts, and where paranormal phenomena are treated as reasonable and normal.

These activities taking place at Concordia Cemetery are disrespectful of the dead. This is a genuine sacrilege. Their irreverence by dressing up for the TV camera as whores and murderers demonstrates clear-cut disrespect for the dead. Allowing the paranormal phreaks to use this sacred burial site in order to promote their strange and offensive ideas is a mockery of the civilized way that western civilization has treated its dead for thousands of years.

My grandmother is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery which lies about 400 yards south of Concordia. If some group of people were trying to defile the cemetery she is buried in with the same carnival atmosphere that is happening at Concordia I would be at the front of the angry crowd demonstrating against this sacrilegious despoliation.

The Concordia Heritage group means well. But they have lost their way. Fund raising and continued growth of the group has overcome all sense of respect for the dead.

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The War in Afghanistan

America has now been at war in Afghanistan for eight years. Before us the Russians fought and lost a bloody war there.

Our country is spending in excess of $40 billion each year on warfare. President Obama is falling under the hypnotic spell of the military that destroyed Lyndon Johnson and resulted in the death of many thousands of people.

If Barack Obama were half as smart as we thought he was, he would make the decision to not send any additional troops to Afghanistan. He would then set a timeline/deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops.

The fight against governmental corruption in Afghanistan needs to be taken seriously. The people of that country need real help; the kind that civilians and non governmental aid organizations can provide.

The military is good at waging wars and killing. They are not the correct group of people to be advising the President on this foreign policy issue. They don’t have the skills needed to help the people of Afghanistan either.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Learning To See Through Photography

Dorothea Lange is credited with saying that learning to be a good photographer also teaches one “how to see without a camera.” Ansel Adams and many of the other masters have said something similar.

In the end the subject matter and the composition is far more important than the technical details about pixels, sensor size, the lens, ISO, exposure, and aperture.

What I find especially powerful about Dorothea Lange is that she understood how much more interesting a photograph is when it also contains a person with great strength of character.

According to Wikipedia “Lange's best-known picture is titled "Migrant Mother". The woman in the photo is Florence Owens Thompson.

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In 1960, Lange spoke about her experience taking the photograph:
I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.

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According to Thompson's son, Lange got some details of this story wrong, but the impact of the picture was based on the image showing the strength and need of migrant workers.”


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Thanksgiving Turkey


This year I have been hearing increasing amounts of “chatter” regarding cruelty to the birds we eat in order to give thanks for our good fortune.
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I have never been a vegetarian, and I am convinced that our species is omnivorous. Complete, total avoidance of all animal products can easily result in serious nutritional deficiencies and long term health problems. But so can obesity and eating lots of meat and cheese.
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I think it is time to shine the light of honesty on factory farming of animals. The way they are treated; their diet of antibiotics and growth hormones.
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This is a link to a rabble rousing pamphlet about the evils of factory farming and animal cruelty. It is short and well worth reading:

--------------------------- http://tinyurl.com/yda5z58

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Green to Blue

Green to Blue from Elizabeth on Vimeo.


Stop Global Warming.
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Camera Straps

Until recently I believed that the Op/Tech camera strap was the best one to use with a heavy SLR type camera. In fact I still have one on my Nikon D300, and I still do really like it. But I have recently become aware of a strap which I like even more.
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The R-Strap by Black Rapid is a wonderful product. It allows you to carry and use a heavy SLR camera without all the problems associated with a neck strap. It is what I am now using on my Nikon D300s which has a dual battery and a GPS.


R-Strap - How To from Matteo Bava on Vimeo.



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There Has Been An Event

It is now 11:40 p.m. on Saturday 21 November 2009. I am 60 years old; almost 61. In about six weeks I’ll be 61…if I make it.

In the last ten days I have had three different events, always at night, which seem to be getting more intense. Each time I was sound asleep then awakened to a sensation of absolute crushing weight upon my chest. Then comes the sweats. Within an hour I have to urgently have one or more bowel movements. My left arm isn't especially painful, but the entire top part of my torso is.

Each time, the way to survive the event has been to get up and go take an aspirin. Tonight I did so, then an hour later I took another one. I lay in bed very quietly and try to breathe deeply - In then Out. Over and over again. It seems to help. Maybe just a little.

Tonight I got to thinking about talking with my father about two hours before he died (at age 62). He said to me, “I almost died last night.” At the time and over the years since then I have wondered, how did he know? Well the chest pain is so intense that it is clear this is something well out of the ordinary. Tonight at one point I even began thinking, “If this gets much worse I just won’t be able to take it.” The thought of putting the barrel of my .44 magnum in my mouth and pulling the trigger kept coming to mind.

I even prayed. I prayed to God. I told him what a hypocrite I felt like, that I thought Christianity and prayer was a total bunch of crap, etc. But I did it anyway. Heavenly Father, blah, blah, etc. I tried to think of some/many of the worst things I have ever done, and ask God for his forgiveness.

Are these events precursor heart attacks? Maybe. Probably.

If I had health insurance would I be in the hospital tonight? Almost certainly. And no doubt the cardiologist would find a major blockage to the blood flow to my heart muscle, and within a day or so I would be in surgery getting a multiple bypass.

But this is America where we do things The American Way. You work your ass off for many years, forfeit your family life, etc. to help the company you are working for to prosper.

Over the years the marriages seemed to come and go, but I kept getting promoted and working my way up the career ladder. I suppose this is because I was loyal, worked such long hours, and gave so much of myself to the company.

You end up being one of the very top managers, in fact my last job title was General Manager, and you find that you are at least partially responsible for the company having made many, many millions of dollars of profit. Then one day the greedy owners of the company decide to bail out; they sell the company and sell you out too. You find yourself suddenly old and unwanted. Out of work. And because you have lost your job you lose your health insurance too. So you die, even though modern medicine could have provided you with several more years of good life.

But the American Way is: No job, no health insurance. No insurance; too bad old man. Screw you, just die; and quit all that nauseating complaining too.


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NOTE: It is now the next morning - I made it through the night. This was the first time that this sort of thing has occurred more than once during one night; and in fact I survived three fairly intense bouts of it last night. Each one lasted about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Last night at one point I was surfing the internet, learning about heart attacks. It seems that the plaque which gets deposited on the inner walls of your blood vessels is largely made up of lipids (oils and fats) and a type of white blood cells called macrophages.

I quit smoking 8 years ago, 7-1/2 years ago gave up all alcohol, and then 7 years ago I was diagnosed with a cancer affecting the white blood cells which is called chronic lymphocytic leukemia. I just checked my old blood tests. Although my level of total defective white blood cells was indeed quite high, and 7 years later my lymph nodes are now incredibly swollen, the macrophages weren’t at all high when I had to stop getting blood tests. So I guess that maybe lipids are playing a bigger part in the problem. In a way that is good news, because it is possible to lower one’s intake of foods containing lipids, thus it might be possible to take some corrective action.

But I think I can read the tea leaves pretty well here. I don’t want to be pessimistic about this, especially since this is such an important matter, but it seems pretty clear that we are nearing the end of this little one act play. Well, it has sure been a good ride! No complaints. I would like to thank everyone who was involved along the way in helping this life of mine turn out so surprisingly wide-ranging and wonderful.
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November 24, 2009
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It just happened again. This time it was not at night but just before noon. I chewed an aspirin and breathed deeply for 30 minutes. Big time sweats. Great bowel movement. Thank goodness I survived it again.


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It is November 27 now. I've made it through two more "events." The longer I am off all cheese and lipids, it seems to be getting a little bit better. But it is still pretty bad.

At least I am getting good at the routine of chewing up an aspirin tablet. Then soon the sweats come and the inexorable bowel movement(s).

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Good Evening New York

At age 67 Paul McCartney has still got it.

I saw him and Linda McCartney perform in 1972 in Germany right after the Beatles broke up. They were with Wings and were plalying in a small club. I must have been standing about 10 or 15 feet away from them.


Good Evening New York City

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Standing Side-by-Side with Al Gore

In today’s news from the Netherlands I read that:


* Central America wants billions for climate damages

Seven Central American countries are going to demand $100 billion from industrialised nations in compensation for damage caused by global warming.

Belize, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama will raise the issue next month at the Copenhagen climate summit. Guatemala's Environment Minister Luis Ferrate says Central America is facing food shortages due to drought and flooding, whose scope is unprecedented.


This is really just the very beginning. I have been involved with various tree hugging causes for more than 40 years. I drove a second generation Prius when I was living in Europe, and now that I have moved to the high desert of America I am driving a third generation Prius. My house has a white roof, and all the light bulbs are compact fluorescents. I’ve even been central to one genuine success in the environmental movement - the Guadalupe Mountains National Park Wilderness area.

But these poor countries are taking the wrong approach by demanding compensation from the more polluting countries. First off, long before these guys get up on their high horses and begin preaching to the big polluters these little tin pot banana republics need to stop cutting down their own rain forests, put an end to corruption, impose genuine environmental restrictions on their mining industry, and stop eating bush meat.

America, China, India, and the other big polluters are mostly just talking a good game, if that. There may even be many people in power in these countries who are sincere and concerned about the impending global environmental problems. But when it comes right down to it they aren’t about to reduce their carbon footprints significantly, if at all. They certainly aren’t going to accept restrictions imposed by anyone outside their countries. No way Jose’.

And as much as I wish it were otherwise, I don’t think the polluters will be willing to force their people to consume less energy if that also means their people having to undergo any meaningful reduction in the standard of living. Mankind has been successful by being competitive, and very often warlike and blatantly brutal. This aggression has now suddenly become a detriment to the future survival of our species.

I will stand shoulder to shoulder with Al Gore as we go down, but in my heart I know this is a lost cause.
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Computer Virus Protection

I was writing computer programs in the late 1960s, and by the 1970s I had my first personal computer.

The internet has become very useful (some would say essential) within the last 5 or 10 years. The internet has exposed a real dark side of humanity. Why are there so many hackers, and so many people trying to cause random pain and destruction to people who have done noting to harm them? Not to mention all the crooks and scam artists who are constantly trying to get their hands on your money or steal your identity.

Over the years I have had experience with several different software packages which attempt to protect one’s computer from these depredations. I currently have Norton installed on one of my machines and McCafee on another. For a few years I used Norman. As far as I can tell they each do a good job of stopping viruses from infecting your computer.

Both of my current suppliers of virus protection charge around $50- per year to provide “protection.” And both are engaged in a practice which I consider highly questionable ethically. Once you buy into their “protection” you are automatically renewed each year. You are not easily allowed to opt-out of this automatic renewal by either of these large providers. I am sure that there are lots of dead computers laying in the trash heap or stored away in the back of people’s closets that have up to date virus protection which is automatically being charged to their credit cards each year.

Visualize a small business owner in New York City who has to pay the mafia for “protection.” This is a racket.

On the PC which uses McCafee I have shut off their child protection feature. I am an adult, I do not have children, and I have no desire to allow someone to censor my web surfing. This is the kind of stuff they do in China. But because I have shut off the child protection feature, McCafee puts a very prominent red X on the screen and continues to warn me that I am not adequately protected. This is like condoms. I no longer carry a rubber in my wallet. I have reached that age where I no longer have sex with other people. Since I do not own a condom some would say that I am not properly protected, but to them I would say Hogwash.

The government authorities should provide citizens with protection from criminals and bad guys automatically. That is their job. Thanks to years of deregulation and the constantly reiterated lie that government is the problem, not the solution, the authorities do not have the resources to provide this type of “protection” so they now just shut their eyes to it.
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Supporting The Troops

I periodically get e-mails from my comfortable middle aged colleagues. They sit in the their nice suburban homes and drive their big SUVs back and forth to work or the store. On the back of the SUV there is a self adhesive ribbon which claims to indicate their support for our brave troops.

There are several ways to really show support for our troops, but self adhesive stickers are not one of them.

Political action is foremost:

1. Do everything you can to get the government to quickly end these senseless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

2. Support an immediate 25% reduction in the defense department's budget. Then another 25% next year.

3. Support a tax increase to pay for the wars; especially among taxpayers with an annual income over $200,000-. We have been paying for all this warlike behavior by borrowing money from the Arabs and the Chinese.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Universal Health Care

There have been many compromises made to get the House bill passed. No doubt it will be watered down even further by the Senate.
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"The health insurance companies are going to make an extra 70 billion dollars as a result of Americans being forced to buy their health insurance. What company wouldn't love this bill?" – Michael Moore in Toronto Tuesday, November 17th, 2009
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Even if the House bill were to pass undiluted 13,000,000 Americans would still be excluded from the health care system. Only in America does one have to choose between death due to lack of medical care and bankruptcy/losing your house. I still support President Obama. He is a far better alternative than the lunatic right wingers. But he is too afraid of a fight over this or any other issue. I guess it has to do with him having being raised as a white man with black skin.
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Mr. Obama: You need to just veto this legislation. It has gotten so far off track that it is worse than nothing.
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Leonids

The meteor shower which appears to come out of the constellation Leo is called the Leonids. It is a prolific meteor shower which is associated with the comet Tempel-Tuttle.

It is now 3:30 a.m., and the dog and I have been outside in the back yard for the last 20 minutes. Since it is in the 30s F I wore an arctic parka, some ski gloves, and a watch cap that I bought one very cold morning in northern England. I brought a folding chair out there so I could sit and watch.

Even though I did not see any shooting stars it was really pleasant being out there. My little black doggie has a very thick coat, so he thrives in this cooler weather. He loved it.
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LINK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonids
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Constructive Debate

"Last week the Environment and Public Works committee, under the able leadership of Senator Barbara Boxer, passed the most comprehensive piece of climate legislation in a generation. The vote was 11-1. Not a single Republican on the committee showed up.

This is a serious issue that requires our full attention. Republican Senators have decided that the better tactic is to ignore and stall and delay. After not showing up for the vote, they now complain about not being part of the process.

There is room for bipartisanship on this issue, as Senator Lindsay Graham has demonstrated. It is my hope that other Republicans begin to take their cues from him."
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The above is from Al Gore's blog. Former vice president Gore is much more diplomatic than I am. I say these Republicans are unpatriotic and this is absolute proof. They should all be thrown out of office. Corrupt bastards!
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LINK: http://blog.algore.com/2009/11/a_constructive_debate.html
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Friday, November 13, 2009

Dr. Jane Goodall on Jon Stewart

Trekkie


Yes, I admit it. I am guilty as charged.

I am a long term, loyal fan of Star-Trek. Especially Jean Luc Picard. I am not the slightest bit gay, and I have no reason to believe that he is either, but I would consider giving it a try for this guy!
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Loves to Foolishly Waste Money

I have driven Toyotas for years. The Lexus is nice, but it is nothing more than a grossly overpriced Toyota. For people who want the quality of a Toyota but choose to get worse fuel economy and spend much more money for the illusion of luxury.

The same applies to laptops. Several good friends are Mac phreaks. Why would anyone in their right mind waste the money to buy a Mac when you can now get a fully functional throw-away Windows computer for less than $300- including sales tax and delivery?
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Good Riddance Lou Dobbs

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out Mr. Dobbs.

You have evolved from a guy who accurately reports the news to one who used CNN to help spread a sicko, right wing agenda. You are very anti-immigration and rather racist against Mexicans.

In the realm of economics you have the same sort of loser, no-regulation ideas as Alan Greenspan and Ronald Rayguns.

I hope we don’t hear much more from you, dumb ass.
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LINK: http://www.hulu.com/watch/108721/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-thu-nov-12-2009
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http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/12/lou-dobbs/?emc=eta1
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Bravery

It is not especially brave for a military commander to keep ordering his troops (read cannon fodder) to charge up hamburger hill. Unless of course he is personally on the ground, and he leads the attack each time. Usually he is a long distance from the danger and is following some pseudo intellectual geopolitical strategy.

It is clear that we will not stay at war in Afghanistan/Pakistan for another 10 to 20 years. These areas which are so valiantly fought for by the brave men and women actually there on the ground, will be given up. It makes most of these deaths seem hideously futile. Like in Vietnam. The whole Vietnam war was one giant error. America took over a war that other large powers had previously failed at. Just like in Afghanistan.

The military generals always call for more troops and equipment. Always. They sit in their comfortable offices a long way from the front, and they advise the president to be brave and stay the course.

This is why we have a civilian as commander in chief. It takes someone with real strength of character to stand up and explain that this senseless waste of human life and resources has to stop. President Obama needs to significantly reduce the troop levels (and civilian contract workers) in Afghanistan-Pakistan, not continue adding to the current course of insanity.

LINK: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/11/AR2009111118432.html?hpid=topnews
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Our Choice


Al Gore’s new book called Our Choice arrived yesterday evening. It is like a dictionary or compendium of the top experts in the world discussing the earth’s climate crisis.

I have just thumbed through it so far, but it looks fantastic. Like a reference book that you would return to time and again.

Senator and then Vice President Al Gore had no intention of becoming the world’s top guru on pollution and climate change. But someone had to do it, so he stepped up to the plate.
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LINK: http://www.algore.com/

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Death Penalty

If there is even the slightest, very remote possibility that the person who is convicted might not be the one who performed the heinous act(s), then I firmly oppose the death penalty. There have been many cases where countless years later it is proven that the wrong person was convicted. So anyone reasonable should oppose the death penalty in these cases.

But if there is 100% certainty that this is in fact the correct person, and there is only some argument about his mental state, motivation, or justification, then I am just as firmly in favor of the death penalty. This would include the sniper John Allen Mohamed who was killed last night, and that fat ass Muslim religious fanatic army Major and doctor-psychiatrist who shot all those people at Ft. Hood.

I don’t even see any reason why these types should be killed humanely. They were enormously merciless to their victims, so I have no problem with them receiving a long, lingering, agonizingly painful death process chocked full of humiliation.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Capitalism

Around the world there are increasing numbers of people who see that completely unregulated, wild-west capitalism is the problem, not the solution.

This article from the Netherlands discusses a BBC survey about capitalism:


* BBC poll: capitalism is less popular
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An increasing number of people throughout the world are dissatisfied with capitalism and believe wealth should be more evenly distributed. A poll held by the BBC world service in 27 countries reveals that attitudes have changed since the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. Just over 29,000 people took part in the survey.
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In 1989 capitalism was seen as the ideal system, but now most people asked believe it needs to be reformed; just 11 percent of those questioned said it was working well. Only in the United States and Pakistan did more than one in five say that capitalism was working well and had no need of reform.

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In almost all other countries a majority think the government has a greater role to play in the economy. According to the researchers this is mainly because of this year's global economic crisis.
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Opinions about the collapse of the Soviet Union are sharply divided; 80 percent of US respondents and 75 percent of those in Germany, France and Great Britain say it was a good thing. Almost 70 percent of Egyptian respondents believe the end of the Soviet empire was a bad thing and opinion in India, Kenya and Indonesia was sharply divided.
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The former eastern block countries are divided on the issue. A majority of Russians regretted the breakup of the Soviet Union and opinion in Ukraine is divided almost equally on the issue. A majority of people in the Czech Republic and Poland said it was a good thing.
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CLL Therapy

I am not a doctor, merely a CLL patient who is doing his best to be well informed. When one has chronic lymphocytic leukemia it is important to remember that in almost all cases this cancer is incurable. When your doctor recommends that you begin some form of treatment, such as the intake or infusion of various toxic substances, I recommend that you ask yourself (or him/her) a couple of important questions:


(1) Will taking these drugs mean that my immune system will function better than it does now? In other words, will my chances of dying from pneumonia or some antibiotic resistant disease this winter be reduced?

(2) Are there peer reviewed studies which show a meaningful extension of lifespan, i.e. survival rate? A longer duration of life; not a few months, but years.



As far as I have been able to find out, all of the current popular therapies appear to have significant side effects. Reduction in the effectiveness of one’s immune system, unusual infections, various degrees of impairment in the proper functioning of one’s kidneys, heart, or liver. So I no longer accept the validity of spin terms like full remission (usually temporary), good response to the therapy, or minimal residual disease when a physician is discussing therapy options.

When one takes into full consideration the down side of these therapeutic agents, one needs to closely look at whether the drugs will make your immune system work better than it does currently; and whether there is reliable and repeatable peer reviewed statistical proof that on average you might expect a meaningful increase in life span by undergoing these toxic treatments which can significantly weaken one's already rather deficient immune system.
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Unviersal Health Care

I just got off the phone speaking with our local Congressman’s office in Washington, D.C. He did indeed vote for President Obama’s health care reform legislation, and I wanted to thank him. Maybe they don’t get many “Thank You” type phone calls, I don't know, but they seemed REALLY pleased to get my call.

This bill which just barely passed the house of representatives certainly does not represent universal health care. Millions of people will still not have access to health care even if the senate were to pass similar legislation. And it specifically excludes abortion - so if your pre-teen daughter were to be raped and were to get pregnant you would have to pay for the abortion yourself.

The senate if full of hard core, right wing lunatics who if life were fair would be committed to an insane asylum. These crazy people are much more heavily represented among the republicans, but there are plenty of democrats who are fellow travelers. So the situation there looks even more difficult than in the house.

Most cell phones nowadays bill long distance calls at the same rate as local calls. So take a few minutes to call your own representative in congress. Either to thank him/her. Or to tell the no-good bum just how terribly ashamed you are of him.

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Stephen Fry

I had the most wonderful dream last night. It was in full color, and like most dreams seemed very much like reality at the time. I was engaged in a very friendly conversation with Stephen Fry. Not as an idol (which he is) but like when you are talking with a long term friend where there is mutual respect.

Keep in mind that I am not homosexual, nor have I ever engaged in anal intercourse with my wife(s). But I am fairly tolerant of other people’s weird and crazy ideas, since at times I also hold viewpoints which are somewhat outside of the norm.

So Stephen and I were talking, and I was explaining in a friendly manner how vital it is that he vigorously campaign for the use of condoms when any two people are engaging in anal intercourse. Just as a health measure.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Democrats Are The New Republicans

Bill Maher is one of the brightest and most insightful guys around.


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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Mass Murder As A Form Of Political Protest

I am a very political person, and I have been since the anti-war protests in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In the 1960s the incredible strength of feeling in America in opposition to the Vietnam War was almost scary. Some people left America and moved to Canada, others moved to Europe. Some became conscientious objectors or medics. But no sane person even remotely considered killing someone as a way to stop the war, much less the idea of killing large numbers of completely innocent people and then committing suicide. Even heavily drugged out, somewhat insane people wouldn't have considered this.

I don’t know what it is that motivates so many Muslims to wear a bomb, and then blow themselves up trying to kill as many innocent people as possible. This concept is hideously sick and evil.

The ballot box may not always be the answer. Non-violence may not always solve the problem. But intentionally targeting masses of innocent non-combatants and killing yourself in the same gesture sure as hell isn’t the way to go about getting what you want.
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Organized religion in general has more negative aspects than positive. But some religions are even worse than others.

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Reaganomics Was A Failure

Some ideas just won’t die even after they are proven wrong time after time. The actor Ronald Rayguns read his lines well, but he was a very poor economist. So are the modern day right wing entertainers.

This is such an important matter that I feel the need to quote Paul Krugman’s blog en masse:

Reagan! Reagan! Reagan!

Aha. I see that some commenters insist that I was unfair or, some insist, intellectually dishonest in my post on the fact that advanced economies actually grew faster in the era before modern finance took hold. There have been assertions that it was all about rebuilding from the war, or that the picture looks very different if you look at per capita real GDP, with some flat assertions that if you look at the numbers right growth has been better since 1980s.

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Um, no.

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Take the United States, which wasn’t damaged in the war. Take per capita real GDP. Give hostages by taking data from 1950 to 1980, which means including the 1980 recession, but stopping at 2007, so that the current slump isn’t included.

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Then here’s what you get:
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Growth in per capita real GDP from 1950 to 1980: 2.2 percent per year
Growth in per capita real GDP from 1980 to 2007: 2.0 percent per year
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Oh, and if we look at real median family income instead, we get:
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Growth from 1950 to 1980: 2.3 percent per year
Growth from 1980 to 2007: 0.7 percent per year
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Sorry: there’s no measure I can think of by which the U.S. economy has done better since 1980 than it did over an equivalent time span before 1980. It may be something you’ve heard, it may be something you’d like to believe, but it just didn’t happen.


LINK: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/07/reagan-reagan-reagan
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Religious Intolerance

Another radicalized, lunatic Muslim religious fanatic has intentionally killed lots of completely innocent people. AGAIN.

Believe it or not, some of the other Muslim soldiers at Ft. Hood, Texas have already begun blaming this outrageous act of mass murder not on the guy who did it but on the military and the U.S. Government’s policies.

One of the founding principles of America was religious toleration. According to what is taught in civics classes, in America you are welcome to belong to any fanatical religious sect of your choice, or not believe in any religion. As long as you do no harm. This last part is vital.

Killing the Jewish athletes in Munich in 1972 (I was there), knocking down the twin towers in New York and flying into the Pentagon with high jacked airliners on September 11, horrible dark-age style discrimination against women, and far too many incidents of suicide bombings to even count.

What the Koran says is irrelevant if in actual day-to-day practice the true believers who claim to live by the Muslim faith continue to behave like mass murderers.
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LINK: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/07/us/07muslim.html?partner=rss&emc=rss




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DX Format Digital SLRs vs FX Format

In digital photography, the larger your CCD or CMOS sensor is the bigger and heavier your lenses need to be. So with the teeny, tiny sensors used in most point and shoot cameras the manufacturers can build heavy duty zoom lenses which are quite small and lightweight.

I’ve owned and used many different brands of digital cameras, but for the last few years I have narrowed in on the Nikon brand. They call the full size sensor (about the size of a 35mm negative) an FX, and the cameras which have a little bit smaller sensor are referred to as a DX format.

Comparing the Nikon D300 which has a DX sized CMOS sensor (15.8 x 23.6mm) making 12.3 megapixel photos to the Nikon D700 which has the larger FX sized sensor (23.9 x 36mm) generating 12.1 megapixel photos you can’t see any real or significant difference in resolution even when printing extremely large pictures. I have seen several direct comparisons of the two cameras, and honestly I just can’t see any improvement from the larger sized sensor.

In evaluating your lenses what you do find is that DX lenses are MUCH lighter to carry around. This weight difference is meaningful. A 300mm focal length lens used on a DX acts just like a 450 mm lens too. So in almost all situations where you are moving around (not in a studio with the camera on a tripod) the DX format is vastly preferable. This is certainly true if you are shooting telephoto shots of wildlife.

If you are interested in getting better resolution I recommend that instead of going to an FX camera and lens you simply begin shooting in raw format, 14 bit depth. The difference between this format and high resolution JPEG is just phenomenal.
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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Air Pollution

In my teens and early twenties I flew quite a bit. I noticed that sometimes the air appeared polluted, but normally it was really clear once you got away from large cities. Forty years later the air is always polluted, even when one is hundreds of miles away from cities.

We have now found ourselves in a situation where global air pollution poses a genuine threat to the future survival of mankind. There is consensus among scientists worldwide that air pollution from cars and trucks, factories, and coal burning power plants is responsible for the vast majority of this. Mankind has caused this as a byproduct of industrialization. This is not some natural cyclical phenomenon of nature.

When one looks at the inherent selfishness of our species it seems unlikely that global cooperation will be achieved in reducing the air pollution. But there are some encouraging signs too. China is not only a rapidly growing country with a massive population, its leaders are also far more committed to renewable green energy than western countries like America.

Here in the USA we can genuinely help. Governmental policies supporting green energy are vital, and so is individual action. Our per capita consumption of energy is higher than anywhere else on the planet.

There are many “news outlets” which confuse entertainment with honest reporting of the facts. As consumers we need to learn which ones are telling us the truth and which are not so concerned with integrity or candor.

On an individual basis one of the more important things we can do is use energy wisely. Reduction of waste and conservation includes things like adding more insulation to your house, caulking leaks, lowering the thermostat in the winter and raising it in the summer. Changing light bulbs to the compact fluorescent type is useful. Walking or riding a bicycle is not only good for your health, it helps reduce energy consumption. When you get a new car, don’t worry so much about its sex appeal or large engine, give primary emphasis to fuel economy. Consider riding a high MPG scooter instead of taking your car.

The politicians will not go to the effort to support genuinely green policy options until there is a true groundswell of support from the people. Like with so many things in life, not words but action on a individual basis is what will change the world.
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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Israel

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is sticking to his refusal to resume negotiations until Israel stops building settlements. In my judgement this is an appropriate stance for him to take.

Israel should refuse to negotiate with anyone who does not openly accept their right to exist and do so in peace. You do not negotiate with someone who continues to openly call for your destruction; you continue to kick his ass until he accepts your right to exist.
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Gay Marriage

Yesterday the voters in the state of Maine conclusively decided to repeal the law which allowed gay marriage.

The homosexual community has been brutally discriminated against. Many straight (read normal, healthy) people feel incredibly threatened by the concept of two men having sex with each other. There is no doubt about the strength of their feelings. There is generally somewhat less fear of lesbians, but they also have felt the sting of discrimination, especially if they chose the military as a profession.

I want to go strongly on record in support of the privacy of one’s own bedroom. Civilized society needs to make certain that the “morality police” do not break down doors in the middle of the night to try and catch two people of the same sex engaged in a bit of fun or pleasure. This is the type of dark ages behavior that fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, and the Taliban would like to see implemented.

If two homosexuals want to live together and maintain a caring relationship, even one which includes regular pleasurable sex, that is alright with me.

But we must not ignore science and reason. The anus is intended to allow the discharge of waste by products. It was not designed to stretch so as to permit another man’s hard penis to be inserted. Doing so causes small cracks and tears which are wonderful places for pathogens to enter the body. This “butt fucking” behavior is one of the best ways to transmit diseases, including HIV-AIDS. As much as I admire Stephen Fry, I simply cannot support any form of sanction or affirmation of anal intercourse.

Gays deserve to be allowed into the hospital to see each other when one is sick or dying. Gays should not be openly discriminated against. Gays also deserve to suffer the indignities of the court system, loss of assets, alimony and perhaps even child support when they wish to terminate their relationship, just like normal straight people do when they get a divorce.

There are laws now in many states which sanction “domestic partnerships.” But to many gays this is not nearly enough. They want society to openly say that two people of the same sex can be “married” to each other. That from a societal perspective being a homosexual is just as good, positive, and healthy as being a heterosexual.

Marriage is an institution which encourages two people of the opposite sex to remain together in a relationship during the many years required for child rearing. Ideally a man and a woman form a relationship; they have sex with each other; they have one of more children; and then the two marital partners stay together until the kids are grown.

Many studies have confirmed that children raised in a situation where the mother and the father are both present turn out better than kids raised by single mothers. The kids from traditional marriages are healthier emotionally, physically, and do far better in school.

Anyone who has been married and has raised children knows that although child rearing is essential for the continuation of the species, and that while there are often some positive aspects to it, that in actual reality raising kids can often be about as close to being in hell as one can get without actually dying. Hence society has tried to provide various positive reinforcements to parents so as to encourage the man to stick around.

In Summary: Gays should not be discriminated against; nor should two people of the same sex be allowed to marry each other. Anal sex is extremely dangerous and unhealthy, thus it should be strongly discouraged by society.
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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Canine Empathy


Saying that dogs are empathic doesn’t begin to do them justice. Since the dawn of mankind dogs have evolved right along side homo sapiens. A big part of the survival skills of dogs has been their ability to sense the mood of their human. Part of this is due to their sharp observational skill, part is their incredibly sensitive sense of smell. I scoff resoundingly at paranormal phenomena, but dogs may even have a bit of ESP. The emotional bond between a person and his/her dog is very real; and it is a two way street. The dog certainly has a strong emotional bond to the human as well.

In his book Starship Troopers the renowned science fiction author Robert Heinlein describes a K-9 unit that is used in intra-galactic warfare. Such a strong bond develops between the soldier and his dog that if the dog should get killed, the soldier is immediately taken out of battle and placed in intensive therapy for a period of several years. If the human is killed but his dog survives, the dog’s grief is so severe that the dog is immediately put to death. The way Heinlein describes this it is clear that this is the only reasonable or humane course of action.

I was diagnosed with leukemia seven years ago. Fortunately the cancer has grown slowly, but I am now experiencing late-stage leukemia. The days really aren’t bad. Very little stamina, lots of sweating, a bit unsure on my feet sometimes, shortness of breath, massively swollen lymph nodes, and some occasional slurring of my words. I used to be a very accurate and fast typist; now I find that the brain doesn’t seem to communicate very well with the fingers, hence I constantly seem to ma2ke typog&ra#phical errors.

I have begun to dread the nights. Headaches almost every night now. The intense night sweats create a constant battle to avoid dehydration. Also having to get up and pee every hour or so. Sudden onset leg cramps every night, which demand that one immediately jumps out of bed and puts pressure (standing) on the leg that is cramping. Many of the humongous swollen lymph nodes on the outer surface of the body have now become painful, so one has to be careful not to apply too much pressure on them while trying to sleep. The internal lymph nodes which are inside the torso have grown large enough that they have now begun pressing against various useful and interesting internal organs. And intense, almost uncontrollable itching.

My dog knows quite well when I am having a particularly difficult night. He lays close to me all night, always touching me, from a very light touch to solid snuggling. In the morning he encourages me to get out of bed by acting playful and behaving like a young puppy. He seems to understand that once I wake up things will get better.

My little black doggie has become my constant companion and my best friend. My partner. We are both constantly checking-out the other one. Little quick eye contact. Twice per day we either walk out in the undeveloped desert or at one of the nearby city parks. He doesn’t need a leash at all, even when we are walking on a sidewalk right next to a very busy street. But he has no problem with me putting the leash on him; some people are afraid of dogs, and there are many situations where it is dreadfully rude to let your dog run around off the leash.

My little friend has clearly evolved into a Service Dog. I didn’t teach him or send him off to some school. He is completely self taught, which often is the very most effective form of education.









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Monday, November 02, 2009

Political Correctness

My leukemia specialist in England, Dr. Terry Hamblin, wrote an amusing piece on being PC in his blog today. He finds it very offensive for people to say Sweet Jesus, and to say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.
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He noted very correctly that, “In general, it is good manners not to give offence unless you mean to and it is also good manners not to take offence unless a verbal slight was intended.”
LINK: http://mutated-unmuated.blogspot.com/2009/11/offensive-pc.html

I guess that what offends you does indeed say a lot about you.

I get terribly offended by people who worry more about their own greed and their taxes increasing than they do about people dying unnecessarily because they are excluded from the America health care system.

I also appreciate the conversational openness that the Australians show. In most bars in America, whether the patrons are men or women, you will hear the word “fuck” spoken frequently without anyone being the slightest bit offended. But this word and many others like it better not be uttered on broadcast TV. Of course it is perfectly OK to say those words on cable TV.

I find it very rude and offensive for people not to capitalize letters or punctuate correctly, especially if those people are trained school teachers. Others would say that I am merely being a grumpy old geezer.

When someone passes me driving an enormous pig SUV which gets 10 miles to the gallon on a good day, I am terribly offended by how much fossil fuel they are wasting and how they are contributing to global warming. Of course I conveniently manage to forget that for many years I loved high performance cars with big V8 engines and two 4-barrel carburetors.

I find global-warming-deniers to be as offensive as holocaust-deniers, and anyone who is critical of President Obama immediately fits into the same mental space as the Klan.

I also am outraged when people ring my doorbell wanting to talk about religion. What fanatical religious kooks! But I am not at all adverse to expressing my negative opinions about all organized religions.












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Huevos Rancheros


Stephen Fry must be in America at the moment. This morning he ate Huevos Rancheros for the very first time. In his elegant, articulate way he was extolling their virtues on Twitter this morning.

It sounded so good that it inspired me to make some.











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Torchwood


I first became a fan of the BBC TV series called Torchwood when I was living in Europe. In a sense this is a spin off from Dr. Who.

It has content that is a bit more adult than Dr. Who, which makes it all the more enjoyable. I am so sorry that this series now has ended.

The final DVD of Torchwood is called Children Of The Earth. I just can’t say enough positive things about Torchwood and the final series in particular. I am going to miss these people. Its sort of like permanently saying good by to friends or family.








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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Day Of The Dead Head


“The Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos or All Souls' Day) is a holiday celebrated in Mexico and by Latin Americans living in the United States and Canada. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration occurs on November 1st and 2nd in connection with the Catholic holiday of All Saints' Day which occurs on November 1st and All Souls' Day which occurs on November 2nd.” (from Wikipedia)

My dearest life long friend in the entire world gave me a gift of this Earthtones ceramic tile today. It was made in Tucson, Arizona and is called “Day of the Dead Head.”

I shall display it with pride in my bathroom.













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Afghanistan

The number two man in the presidential runoff has decided to withdraw from the runoff election in Afghanistan. Considering the massive fraud which took place in the first election, and considering that the same election officials will be watching over this new runoff, he made what is probably a correct assessment that there was no way this could be a fair and honest election.

Yet the American secretary of state, Ms. H. Clinton, remained publicly optimistic and suggested that naturally the election should go ahead.

Even the most hawkish, red-neck military generals agree that the situation (war) in Afghanistan will only turn out positive for America if at least 85% of America’s effort and resources go towards diplomacy and efforts to improve the lives of ordinary Afghanistan citizens; with roughly 15% to authoritarian tactics like kicking down doors, bombing, and killing. Yet the administration of President Obama can’t seem to stand up to the military industrial complex much better than George W. Bush and his creepy torture czar Mr. Cheney.

After eight years of killings and a massive expenditure of money by America, we find that the civilian government in Afghanistan is still one of the very most corrupt in the entire world. The president of Afghanistan’s brother is one of the most powerful and corrupt warlords, and there is good evidence suggesting that he is intimately involved in both poppy growing and the sales of opium and heroin.

The Muslim religious extremists who brought down the two world trade center towers did most of their training in Germany and the USA. These Muslim anti-American groups have taken advantage of the internet as much as anyone else, and they are now only very loosely associated with any specific country including Afghanistan or Pakistan.

It is time to say adios to the country of Afghanistan. We need to stop wasting lives and money. This part is simple and clear.

In Pakistan Ms. H. Clinton was openly criticized by a group of well educated female doctors and lawyers. They rightly told her that unmanned American drones are engaging in summary executions in Pakistan, without the hindrances of rules of evidence, a judge, or a jury. It is hard to fault their logic. The behavior of the American military has clearly been undemocratic. Yet Pakistan has the atom bomb, which these suicidal Muslim terrorists would love to get their hands on. Pakistan is indeed far more dangerous to American interests than Afghanistan.

Neither country has exhibited any strong tendencies towards desiring Democracy, and frankly the tactics employed by America in both countries have often not comported with Democratic principles.

It certainly is time to refuse any increase in military personnel fighting these useless overseas wars which are guaranteed to fail. No increases, not in spending, civilian contractors, nor in troops. Then over the next few years the troop levels should be gradually reduced and the spending on the military drastically reduced.









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