Sunday, January 31, 2010

Why Has Support For Healthcare Declined?

There are not many people in America who support people suffering or dying because they don't have access to the healthcare system. Maybe a few of the seriously mentally ill right-wing types like this idea, but the vast majority of Americans do not. Almost no one in American supports people having to go bankrupt and lose their homes when a family member gets sick, or allowing insurance companies to routinely cancel a health insurance policy once someone gets sick.

There was overwhelming support nine months ago for universal health care, and now support for Obama's ultralight version that he called health care reform has declined so far that it probably is dead. So the big question that needs to be answered is Why? As the debate went along Obama and his team conceded increasingly greater parts of reform to the right-wing Republican position. Drug companies were not reigned in. A great many intelligent people said from the beginning that only a single payer system would work, yet Obama quickly dispensed with both it and even the far weaker public option which had overwhelming public support.

The public didn't like seeing middle class working people have to pay higher taxes, while the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy remain in force. Taxes on rich folks are lower now that they were in Ronald Raygun's era. People felt uncomfortable that even if Obama's bill were to pass, millions of Americans would still not be covered.

Not many people liked the idea of using the IRS and stiff penalties to require even poor people to buy health insurance from the greedy private health insurance companies. We don't even do this with automobile liability insurance, and it certainly is the wrong approach with health care. After a full year of blah-blah-blah the American congress remains so arrogant that they still have not even studied what works in Canada, Britain, France, Holland, or Germany. Their attitude is still that the bozos in Washington know more than anyone else in the world. About everything. Wildly inflated egos, almost to the point of psychopathy.

So people in America keep on dying of medical situations which could be cured if the crowd in Washington, D.C. had just done their jobs properly. And people are still being forced into bankruptcy and losing their homes due to high medical bills.

I am saddened almost to the point of despair to see the government of a great country like the U.S.A. becoming so corrupt, behaving with such incompetence, and to watch America fall this far.

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Child Trafficking in Haiti

After the recent horrible earth quake in Haiti a group of American religious fanatics and fundamentalists from Texas and Kansas which are called Baptists have been arrested in Haiti on suspicion of child kidnapping and trafficking.

I have known several Baptists over the years. My experience has been that the Baptists are indeed one of the sickest of the Christian fundamentalist sects. They don't allow their members to play cards or even to dance. Some of their daughters end up turning into compulsive sex addicts and closet sluts, all the while feeling the intense guilt brought on by their fundamentalist religious upbringing.

This group of Baptists had a web site encouraging people to make tax deductible contributions, so there have also been suggestions that they may have been operating some sort of a scam. These fundamentalist religious fanatics claim that they had only the best of intentions, but because they were operating outside of the system without the proper documents, and due to their religious fanaticism some Haitian authorities are unsure. At the moment the Baptists remain in the custody of the Haitian law enforcement personnel.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Unexpected Acceleration

Toyota is a fine company. I have owned many cars made by them, and years ago even a Toyota sewing machine . I once was invited to tour one of their manufacturing plants, which was eye opening. These guys at Toyota were the gold standard of good ideas and best-practices. They treated their employees more humanely than just about any other company. Toyota is not the only car manufacturer which has been receiving reports for years of vehicles unexpectedly accelerating either. There have been numerous accidents and even deaths. Yet apparently as of yet no one is truly certain why these cars just out-of-the-blue decide to put their pedal to the metal. In a way it almost sounds like the computer named HAL in the movie 2001.

The situation described in the prior paragraph has nothing at all to do with accelerator pedals which are a bit sticky or slow to return back to an idle position once you remove your foot. These are entirely different situations. Both are frightening and dangerous, but when your car up and decides on its own to accelerate, and then perhaps continue accelerating, this is the more upsetting of the two.

Over most of the history of car manufacturing there has been some kind of mechanical linkage between the gas pedal and the engine. So even with the key off or with a dead battery, if the gas pedal is pushed down something moved in the engine's carburetor or fuel injection system. When you removed your foot from the gas pedal powerful springs returned everything to the idle position.

As digital electronics and chips have become more omnipresent the situation has evolved. It is well agreed that properly designed mechanical linkages are more reliable than the finest and most well designed digital electronic circuitry. Heat, vibration, static electricity, and moisture all will assure the rapid death of digital chips and their associated components. If you don't believe it, start leaving your iPod on the dashboard of your car all day, in the full sun with the windows rolled up. Or drop your iPhone into a full bathtub. Probably the most frustrating diagnostic situation is where an electrical circuit is intermittent. Most of the time it works fine, but then one time out of many millions it actually makes one or more mistakes. When the engineers examine it everything works fine, but under real life conditions sometimes things go badly wrong.

Several years ago car makers stopped having any direct mechanical linkage between the gas pedal and the engine. Instead they now communicated via wiring and digital chips. This was called drive-by-wire. In the last few years I have owned two brand new vehicles which had electrical problems. One was a Mercedes and the other a Nissan. I eventually just had to get rid of the Nissan. The Mercedes acted like your Windows computer. Sometimes the chips and the programming would all get so badly out of sync that I just had to re-boot it. This meant pulling over to the curb, stopping, and shutting it entirely off. Just like with a computer, when it started back up generally everything was fine.

When the military airplane makers discontinued mechanical linkages and went to fly-by-wire it was because they wanted the greater control and intelligence that a flight computer could provide. The civilian airplane manufacturers went to fly-by-wire to reduce weight, save money, and increase profits. Choosing not to have a hydraulic or mechanical backup system was done to reduce cost, most certainly not to increase safety and reliability. I don't know what reasons or justifications the car makers had. Even with power assist the steering and braking systems have a mechanical or hydraulic backup; but not the gas pedal.

Digital electronics have helped the car makers reduce harmful air pollution emissions, achieve better fuel economy, and have improved performance. The problem now is that each car now has a great many digital chips built into it. Each chip has thousands or even millions of transistors on it, and many thousands of lines of computer programming code. Remember the space flight which was a disaster because of errors in the computer programming? It happens. All the time.

My heart goes out to the engineers at Toyota. Many of the components which could be causing the problem are made by other companies (they are out-sourced). The guys who originally designed the component or who wrote the computer code controlling it may have left the company or even been laid off in order to improve quarterly profits and the bonuses of top managers. There may even be a little intentional sabotage going on by employees who feel they have been treated poorly by the company. Just think about all the viruses and malware floating around. All of these computer programs were deliberately written by incredibly smart people who want to cause havoc and hurt other people for one reason or another.

When engaged in diagnostic work one soon learns that it is not uncommon, in fact it is almost the norm, to find multiple malfunctions combining to cause the final disastrous situation. I don't doubt that in fact there were situations where the gas pedal got stuck under the floor mat. No doubt there are others where the gas pedal is slow or somewhat sticky in returning back to the idle position after one removes one's foot. Both are really quite easy and cheap to remedy.

Much more difficult to analyze and fix is the drive-by-wire situation where some computer chip and its associated programming code suddenly tell the car, entirely out-of-the-blue, to go to full throttle and hold it there. If one were a science fiction writer one could paint a picture where the murder of human life forms is being perpetrated by super-intelligent digital computers. Or maybe even by disgruntled workers writing computer code that one time in 100 million intentionally takes a completely unexpected course.

It is probably unwise to get downright xenophobic here, but what if the managers of some of Toyota's suppliers wanted to increase their company's profits (thereby their own bonuses), so rather than hire and maintain their own team of high paid, skilled, and loyal computer programmers they outsourced the work to some extremely low-wage but smart and skilled computer programmers in India who they have never actually met in person?

My entire private life has been filled with the very latest of technology for many years. I am an early adopter. A general class amateur radio operator in high school, instrument rated pilot; smart phones, digital cameras, GPSs, hybrid cars, big screen TVs - you name it. Back in the early 1980's I even wrote my own share of computer code. But these are mostly non-life threatening applications.

For 25 years I was a top manager involved in manufacturing. Our plants were noisy and dirty, many times had 100% humidity at high temperatures, and were regularly washed down to government food standards with high pressure wash down systems like you see at the car wash.

For years I fought a battle with both my bosses and also the engineers who reported to me regarding their desire to have the latest high technology gadgetry in the factory, and my desire for very high reliability and dependability under adverse circumstances. Relay logic vs. PLCs and computer chips. Down time in a factory environment where all the hourly workers stand around happily getting paid but not doing anything productive is extremely costly for a company.

I guess the good news is that if there is any company on the face of the earth which might be able to get to the bottom of this sudden acceleration problem, it is probably Toyota. And with both sales and manufacturing shut down the pressure has never been higher. The entire future viability of their company may be on the line here. So far all the public announcements say that they are just focusing on the gas pedal, but I'll bet that in secret their Japanese skunk works is furiously searching for the electronics cause of this very rare and intermittent sudden acceleration.

Good Luck Toyota!

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The Lowest Form Of Life On The Planet

Jay Leno reports that scientists have found the lowest form of life on the planet. It is called John Edwards.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

President Obama Comes Out Of The Closet As Pro-Nuclear

President Obama seems to be working his way down the list of his supporters intentionally alienating one group after another. His approach to economics is vintage Ronald Raygun. His economic policies and the economic advisers he has surrounded himself with both show a strong bias to the center right Republican ideology.

During the campaign he clearly supported single payer universal health care. This rapidly changed into him not supporting the far weaker government option or even a social security buy in. Part of the way he intended to pay for it all was to increase taxes on hourly middle class workers.

He let the pharmaceutical industry have a pass to do whatever they wanted at the expense of the American consumer. He lied to old people when he said right to their faces that his health care reform would not in any way diminish their benefits or coverage. As it turned out he intended all along to partially pay for it all with the money he would no longer be spending on old folks.

In foreign policy he said he would end the wars; but significantly increased the troop levels instead. An exit strategy seems more unlikely all the time. He really hasn't done much at all to help racial minorities or gay people. The effort to make abortion illegal is getting much stronger, and Obama has provided no leadership for allowing women the choice to make their own decision. Now he is kissing environmentalists goodby by focusing on nuclear energy rather than first going for genuine energy efficiency and conservation.

Doesn't he realize that all the Republican racists viciously hate him? There is no chance at all of getting their cooperation or support. And now he is progressively going down the list and burning his bridges with a large part of his Democratic Party support base. President Obama's head is now so far up his ass that he can no longer see any daylight at all.

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Cars That Go Boom Boom Boom



Back when I was in high school it was popular to remove the muffler from your car. This made the engine produce a tiny bit more power, and it made you feel like you were driving a really fast car. Thus you felt sexy and cool. Motorcycle riders still seem to be afflicted by this same syndrome. Society and the police unfortunately didn't appreciate the loud noise back in the 1960's. They felt that it was somehow irresponsible and created some sort of a public nuisance.

In the 21st century those who do not have the funds to buy a really nice car instead spend a much smaller amount on a powerful amplifier and 15 inch woofers for their junker car. They think this makes them seem cool or sexy, even with their crummy car and their morbid obesity. Roughly the same phenomenon.

The difference is that nowadays the police are no longer interested in enforcing silly inconsequential things like noise ordinances or public nuisance noise regulations. To be fair the cops do have other things they must deal with like rampant teen gangs with knives and hand guns. And of course their quota for speeding violations has to be met in order to help fund the government workers.

The good news is that these young people with the powerful amplifiers and big woofers who are so annoying now will be mostly deaf by their mid-40's. The same thing goes with those people who plug earphones into their mp3 player and then turn it up really loud.

In future years when the ringing in their ears becomes a real problem, maybe it will remind them of how stupidly they behaved in prior years.

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Apple iPad

The new Apple iPad continues a long tradition of refusing to accept widely accepted concepts allowing the consumers choice. Instead they ram Apple only formats and concepts down people's throats, all because of a desire for higher corporate profits and monopoly control.

For example, the new iPad can only be used on AT&T's network. I happen to have both of my cell phones on AT&T, but since they are unlocked and have a user changeable SIM card, if I wanted I could drive over to the T-Mobile store and in a few minutes they would be working on their network. Monopoly control by Apple and AT&T.

The new Apple iPad is rather expensive (read seriously overpriced) when it is compared with a good Acer netbook, so what does the buyer get for all that additional money? The screen is smaller. The iPad, unlike virtually all of the cheapest new cell phones or laptops, does not have a camera or a GPS. It doesn't have USB ports or an SD card slot. In looking at the specifications I can't see that the user has the possibility of changing the battery when this one gives out. The iPad doesn't output HDMI or high-res video, and it doesn't even provide Flash support!

If the iPad were half the price it might be a reasonable toy to own, but at Apple's inflated monopoly price it does not appear to be anything that someone with much intelligence or tech savvy would buy.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

If I Should Die Before I Wake

I know this sounds a little psychotic, but back 60 some odd years ago when I was a young boy I actually said a little prayer each night before going to sleep. That was back in the era of Sky King, Ozzie and Harriet, and the fascist McCarthy commission in the U.S. Congress.

Many years later I once again think each evening about the possibility that I might not wake up in the morning.

I have an incurable form of leukemia, and I have now lived well beyond my statistical best-before-date. According to the bell curve only 35% of my similar colleagues are still alive. The disease has indeed awakened and is now progressing rapidly. The days really are rather pleasant...no complaints. But the nights are getting increasingly difficult. Last night I awoke screaming in pain in the middle of the night. When I do this it sort of freaks out my little macho black doggie. He is so empathic and wishes so that he could do something to help.

Anyway, there is no point being negative about it all. Each of us is terminally ill, I just am fortunate enough to have a fairly good conception of the timing of it all.

But back to the bedtime prayers. I have traveled extensively in the holy land, I've been to church is some of the finest and most sacred cathedrals in Europe. I now think that most organized religions, most certainly Christianity and Mohammedanism are nothing but a total bunch of horribly evil hogwash. Organized religion may be nothing but a bunch of lies, however death is inevitable and completely real.
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So each evening I make certain that my dog's water and dry dog food bowls are completely full. He has a doggie door and can go outside whenever he wishes. We don't have anyone who checks on us with any regularity, but I hope that my little furry friend will get lucky and someone will check on us before he suffers a horrible death. Starvation takes a good while, but death from dehydration really doesn't take all that many days.

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Energy Conservation



My current lifestyle is fine. I have no complaints.

My house is heated by natural gas and so is the hot water. My natural gas bill arrived today and I realized that even though it has been fairly cold this winter, I only used $23.18 of natural gas to both heat the house and heat hot water. Yes, I have gone out of my way to seal and insulate this house well. It has triple pane windows and I keep the thermostat set at moderate levels.

My car has a wonderful air conditioner, CD player, and it is quiet and comfortable to ride in. Yet I consistently achieve a fuel economy better than 60 miles per gallon.

It is very possible indeed to lead a good life but consume far less energy than most of us Americans do. It makes me feel conscientious too.

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Leadership

Over the past year President Barack Obama’s largest failure has been the almost complete absence of leadership he has shown. He has fairly good ideas, and he gives great speeches. But when it comes to leading a group of people into battle, or confronting conflict, he suddenly is nowhere to be seen.

So it got me to thinking about leadership.

The leadership preparation courses, the leadership seminars, and books are all important. But cumulatively they account for only about 5% of what it takes to be a good leader.

Experience in being a leader under trying circumstances is the 95% of the learning curve. This doesn’t include being head of the debating team in college.

When you are charged with leading a group of men into conflict, the responsibility forces you to learn. You soon realize that people very rarely follow the direct orders of a dictator. People are incredibly intelligent and creative, and they will figure out all sorts of ways to sabotage a dictator without ever actually directly disobeying him.

A good leader gets his troops to follow him because they respect him and trust him. Inherent in this is never lying to your people. Very few military people who have had front line experience as a leader behave like dictators. They understand that it simply is not possible for them to do all the work alone, and in order to get the help of the people around them they must achieve their cooperation.

In general I find ball sports where one throws, kicks, bats, clubs, or hits a ball as extremely stupid and inane. But when it involves one team battling another team and they all take it rather seriously, having performed well as a respected and successful captain of the football team is a vital part of the track record. Being a team leader or a hands-on production manager in a production company under a difficult and demanding environment can teach one many of the same lessons. So can being an effective leader of men going into combat.

One thing we can learn from Obama’s failures is the importance of electing a person who has a proven track record as someone who can lead of group of people. A candidate who has the leadership skills to both earn the respect of their colleagues (and opponents), and at the same time meet the organization’s goals.

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Outsourcing

I have owned many motor vehicles over the years. American, French, German, Chinese, British, Italian, and Japanese ones. My experience over half-a-century has been that vehicles made by Toyota are substantially more expensive than the others, but that their reliability and quality well justifies the additional expense.

In the twenty first century the concept of outsourcing is all the rage among manufacturing companies worldwide. When you outsource an item and then you later need to delete or change it, you don't have to worry about all the people who will suffer or get fired. People losing their homes, marriages falling apart, childhoods being destroyed, all because the primary bread winner's career has vanished. When you outsource you also don't need to be concerned about the economic consequences of your actions like severance payments, retraining, relocation, etc. Since these people don't work for your company their long-term pensions and health care become the problem of someone else. Under the system of outsourcing it is easy to begin thinking of all these workers as just machines without dreams, emotions, careers, or families. They don't work for your company, so you are insulated. Just like a bomber pilot is insulated from the death and destruction he is causing thousands of feet below.

Outsourcing can be positive for the profits of a manufacturing company, thus it tends to make managers look good. Just like with the boom and bust cycle in capitalist economies, when things are going good it is easy to get complacent and forget about the possible negative consequences of outsourcing.

When you choose to have an item produced for you by another company, rather than manufacturing it yourself, you have far less control over possible sloppiness, poor manufacturing processes, or subtle cost cutting. In good companies one has the very best of (read expensive) quality assurance staff traveling around trying to determine whether a particular supplier has any hidden manufacturing or personnel problems. In my career in manufacturing I have been a part of the process of wining and dining these traveling quality assurance people so that they don't waste too much time looking at one's own manufacturing. Good companies also perform regular incoming quality checks of items manufactured by other companies to make certain that they are well within agreed upon specifications.

The problem is that even with the finest of procedures you still are mostly flying blind when you have some other company do the work for you. If your own factories and your own loyal and dedicated people make an item, you are much more certain that the work was performed properly and that everything is up to specifications.

When you combine outsourcing with just-in-time (JIT) parts manufacturing and delivery you have a virtual ticking time bomb. The old rule of “Stuff Happens” eventually will bite you. The supplier himself can face sourcing problems of his own raw materials, he may be treating his people badly and might suffer worker slow downs, strikes, or even subtle sabotage, and transportation of the outsourced parts on their way to your factory can run into all sorts of problems including even simple things like bad weather.

Yes, outsourcing combined with JIT creates many subtle pressures for people at all stages of the process to take short cuts. Toyota is not the first company to find out what a high price must be paid when things do eventually go wrong, as they inevitably will.

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Leading A Happy Life

As human beings we all want to be happy and free from misery…we have learned that the key to happiness is inner peace. The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger, attachment, fear and suspicion, while love and compassion and a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness.

------------------------------------------ Dali Lama

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Government of the Corporation, By the Corporation, and For the Corporation

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So far not a lot of people have noticed that the American Supreme Court decided this week to essentially allow wealthy corporations to buy politicians (make unlimited campaign contributions to them).
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This is not good news for democracy in America. In fact, it may well end up being the most momentous event in the destruction of democracy for the last 50 - 100 years.

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Bye Bye President Obama


I worked to help get him elected, but I am now completely disappointed by President Obama. He has totally sold out the progressives and liberals who got him elected to his right wing Republican buddies. He has surrounded himself with Wall Street and Bush true believers. He no longer is listening to other points of view.

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I am normally a positive and enthusiastic person, but today I finally officially unsubscribed from the many emails I get from him and his fellow fund raisers. When you do this they ask you why you have chosen to unsubscribe. I told them the absolute truth: Barack has sold out all of his progressive and liberal views.

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It is sad to say but Mr. Obama has no guts, and he certainly has shown no leadership.


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Jobs Creation

American politicians have been talking about this for some time now, but most of it still is just so much blah-blah wasted talking and lecturing.

The problem is really quite simple. American capitalists by law must seek the maximum profits for their companies. Thus rather than pay the somewhat higher wages for Americans, and have to deal with all those annoying governmental regulations regarding child labor, minimum wages, workplace safety, and the environmental consequences of their businesses, they have shut down most of their manufacturing plants in America and moved their manufacturing operations to countries where they don't have to comply with all these silly rules and regulations requiring them to be socially responsible.

So most of the GOOD jobs, the manufacturing jobs, have left America. The new jobs are low paying, low responsibility jobs like working at Wal-Mart or Starbucks. The solutions which will bring the good jobs back aren't that difficult, and they are good for America and good for society in general.

America needs to impose import duties on all goods entering the country from overseas in order to raise the prices to what they would have been if the overseas companies had obeyed the same laws that America companies have to follow: Child labor, workplace safety, product safety (no lead paint in children's toys and no toxic chemicals in food), fair labor practices, and the environment. Yes, China will raise bloody hell. They will scream like a stuck pig. Tough luck. The American workers are as smart and as dedicated as people anywhere on the planet. The American workers have been sold out by the capitalists and the politicians.

The second element to bringing the America economy back is to reinstate all of the new deal protections for the financial system which have been eliminated by years of deregulation. Included in this would be moving the American tax system back towards progressive taxation. What we have evolved to is a system where we are now actually taxing the poor and middle classes to make the upper class even wealthier.

This reverse Robin Hood situation is not sustainable. It will result in all sorts of nasty unintended consequences. The longer we wait to deal with it, the uglier things will be when it is finally dealt with.

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Increasing Taxes On The Wealthy

In order to help reduce their budget problems, the people of Oregon have done what our mostly corrupt and spineless elected officials in Washington, D.C. don't have the strength of character to do. They have increased taxes on individuals making more than $125,000 per year, and families making over $250,000. They have also approved increasing income taxes on corporations.

This is such an obvious solution that it is strange that we don't see it happening all over the country. The nation and indeed much of the world used to follow what California did, although several years later. But California seems to have lost its way.

Oregon now appears to have become one of the leaders (maybe THE leader) in the entire country in sensible and practical people-oriented solutions to society's problems. From green development of city centers and the suburbs, to practical mass transit, and now this latest initiative of reinvigorating progressive taxation.

I lived in Europe for fifteen years, then three years ago I retired, and moved back to America. I've been watching the looney Republican political leadership here in Texas over the last few years. What a bunch of dishonest, greedy jerks. The climate here in the high West Texas desert seems rather nice at first, but the cooler and wetter weather in the Pacific Northwest is looking more attractive all the time. One sees absolutely heartbreaking poverty here on the border with Mexico on a daily basis, and if you are fluent in the Spanish language (which fortunately I am) it sure helps you get by.

Congratulations and praise to the people of Oregon! Keep up the good work.


LINK: http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-na-oregon-tax27-2010jan27,0,3341290.story


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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

So Where Is The Moral Outrage?

Now that Universal Health Care and even the ultralight version that President Obama called Health Care Reform are both officially dead it is more than appropriate to ask, “Where is the moral outrage?”

The top elected officials are now saying that we have plenty of time. Health insurance companies are still canceling policies when people get sick, and people who thought they had good insurance are still going bankrupt and losing their homes when a family member gets sick. Millions of people are still completely excluded due to pre-existing medical conditions.

Where is Mr. Obama and his silver tongue? The absence of any real presidential leadership on this and many other important issues has been painfully obvious.

The Republicans are most responsible for this failure, but the blue dog Democrats share a lot of the blame too. All I have to say to all of our elected officials who played a part in this monumental failure is: You phonies. You cruel, sick bastards.

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WTF Barack?

The Obama administration is proposing a spending freeze on most domestic programs. In other words those programs which help out normal people instead of the super-rich. But there still is no mention of trying to freeze the spending on warfare, or indeed how we will eventually pay for all this death and destruction. You are allowing the government to keep borrowing from the Chinese to finance the military just like a drunken sailor or maybe a drunken Ronald Raygun. There certainly is no longer any mention of increasing taxes on the wealthy to help pay for the warfare spending deficit.

WTF is wrong with you Barack? Did you ever listen to the Frank Zappa album entitled Freak Out? The song called “The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet” goes like this: “Suzie. Suzie Creamcheese. This is the voice of your conscience Baby, uh, I just want to check on thing out with you. You don't mind do you? Suzie Creamcheese, Honey, what's got into you?”

You have surrounded yourself with Bush and Wall Street true believers. No wonder you are now acting like a center-right Republican instead of a liberal Democrat. You no longer listen to other points of view such as reasonable, well educated, progressive liberals like the Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman. You have even gotten distinctly paranoid Barack, accusing Krugman of being the leader of some kind of a liberal revolt against you. Paul Krugman is certainly not a leader, he is just an articulate moderate progressive who expresses the despair and dismay of the people who elected you.

So in addition to proposing various cut backs in programs for old people you are now suggesting a spending freeze on most other domestic programs as well.

Yes, Mr. Obama you have morphed into a greedy, uncaring right wing Republican. What a disaster for the country.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

QuinceaƱera

Sunday afternoon I was walking with my doggie in Memorial Park in El Paso, Texas. I noticed a fairly large group of young people gathering. Rather than getting all paranoid or concerned about what kind of mischief these kids might be getting up to, the old geezer went over to check it out and see what was going on.

They were just practicing their dance for the coming-of-age ceremony when a young girl turns 15. This was really a very nice addition to the things going on in the park.
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LINK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quincea%C3%B1era
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Friday, January 22, 2010

Reaching Out Across The Aisle to Republicans

Barack Obama has proven to be a terrible disappointment. His childish idealism and his inability to face reality have wasted our time, and flushed massive amounts of our energy down the drain for an entire year now. This guy appears to be totally lost in space. Dazed and confused. Maybe it is because he has to constantly sneak into the closet to smoke his cigarettes. He just can't be bothered with silly concepts like millions of Americans dying because they are excluded from the health care system.

Reaching across the aisle to these right wing guys is like reaching out to the nazis or a rattlesnake. No matter how sweet you talk to it, turn your back for just a moment and it will do it's best to wipe you out. Compromise is simply not possible with lunatics like these.

One year into his Presidency we have realized that Obama has no balls, no backbone. And no moral foundation to stand on. He had the very most liberal voting record of any person in the U.S. Senate, so it was not unreasonable for the American voters to think that he was a liberal. For him to cave in to the rich capitalists on pharmaceuticals, the single payer health plan, the government option, even social security buy in; and then for him to try to reduce health benefits to people receiving social security, and to try and tax hourly working people to pay for his health insurance company bail out program is nothing short of horribly sick and perverted.

He promised to end the wars and close the government's secret jails. He has not closed the secret jails and he has significantly increased troop levels. He has surrounded himself with Wall Street advisers, and he has kept Bush Jr's military man on the payroll.

How many times is he going have to get his ass brutally kicked by these dishonest, greedy, right wingers before he realizes that his continued efforts trying to “cross the aisle” is causing horrible damage to America and its people? Obama allegedly was a liberal, he also was allegedly a constitutional scholar. He seems to have forgotten the part about “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Or maybe he thinks that trying to cross the aisle is important enough that he can just ignore this part about democracy and the needs of the common people.

President Obama needs to go back to basics. Progressive taxation.

Sales taxes, the taxes on your phone bill, social security payroll taxes, school taxes, gasoline taxes, and a multitude of other taxes and governmental fees already hit the poor and the middle class far harder than they do the rich. So our current tax situation is regressive. It takes from the poor and the middle classes, and transfers their wealth to a small group of dishonest rich people. People who earn more than $250,000 or $1 million per year have a moral and social obligation to pay a bigger part of the nation's expenses than poor people. America has a long history of progressive taxation. It is time to get back to what made America strong.

If Obama and his team don't develop the balls and the strength of character to take on the rich and powerful soon, Barack Obama will surely go down in history as one the very worst presidents this country has ever had.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Very Best Camera

Although I currently own several Nikon SLR and DSLR cameras and lenses, over the years I have been enamored with various other makes of cameras including several Olympus SLR and DSLR cameras, and Sony point and shoot cameras.

My heavy lifter at the moment is a Nikon D300s DSLR. I use it when I need multiple strobes, very high resolution, or excellent low light sensitivity. But it does have one problem – it is heavy and cumbersome to lug about.

I have done a bit of traveling in Europe, north Africa, and the mid-east. I virtually never bring along an SLR or DSLR camera. A good quality point and shoot camera which will comfortably fit in your shirt pocket is the one you want when you travel.

Now that I have a smart cell phone with a built in GPS and which already contains pre-loaded maps for all of America, and which will encode the photograph EXIF data with your GPS location and elevation information, I have been experimenting with using this cell phone camera for all the surprise candid shots I typically see when I am out and about.
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Click on this picture so as to enlarge it. I took it with my 3.2 mp cell phone camera.

Two laws about photography that I live by:
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---1.--Quality through Quantity.
---2.--The very best camera in the world is the one that you have with you at the moment.

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Old Folks and Obama's Fall

I worked in Barack Obama's primary and general election campaigns. I have donated money to his campaigns. So I am not just some ignorant, right wing, Republican racist.

I have been delving into why President Obama took such a big fall, and so quickly.

Besides being weak and afraid of getting sand kicked in his face, he had the gall to screw with old folks. Old people vote more than any other demographic. And although marketers consistently go after the younger age groups, us old farts have most of the money too.

Obama said he would not cut any benefits to old people. If anything they need to be increased. He said that his weak health insurance company bail out plan absolutely did not reduce any benefits to us old geezers. But it did. Part of the way they intended to fund the Obama health care reform plan was by reducing the money spent on health care for us old people. Obama lying to us that way was terribly condescending.

Our bodies have indeed slowed down, but we have gained a lot of experience and strength of character over the years. Many of us are well educated, and we have learned deviousness over the years too. The Grey Panthers came out against Obama's health care reform plan when he gave in on “single payer.”

Maybe this won't teach President Obama any lessons, perhaps he isn't even bright enough to figure it out. But I'll bet lots of other politicians will figure it out. If they want to keep their cushy, corruption filled jobs, they better not lie to or fuck with old people.

Old folks don't just get mad. We get even. We know how to vote the bastards out.

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Ice Cream Truck

It is the end of January, and I have begun hearing the Ice Cream Pusher's truck in the afternoons after the kids get home from school.

It used to be common to have milk delivered directly to your house. If you were sick, your family doctor came to your house and did a house call.

Now the mailman doesn't even come to our house here in the suburbs; the bank of mail boxes are about a quarter of a mile away. I am developing a reputation around our neighborhood as a bit of an eccentric. Actually walking the half mile round trip to the mail boxes? Weird.

Our children are now so morbidly obese and so desperately addicted to sugar that they have to have their sugar fix. So the sugar dealer drives around the neighborhood selling them what they need.

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Dishonest Politicians

In the news I see that President Obama thinks that the crushing loss of Senator Edward Kennedy's seat to the Republicans is due to voter dissatisfaction with the economy. I guess it never occurs to him that voters have deserted him personally because of his selling them out to the right wingers, time-after-time. Lots of voters thought he was a leader who would try to move the country back towards the ideas of the people, by the people, and for the people. Not just what helps the super wealthy people, but what is good for all the people. Progressive taxation and accountability for corruption among wealthy businessmen, politicians, or any one else. Laws applied equally to all people, regardless of their race, religion, or socioeconomic status.

For many years I was heavily addicted to smoking cigarettes. Eight years ago I quit. As any ex-smoker can tell you quitting and then staying quit is not easy. It takes backbone and strength of character. When it came out in the open that Obama was a closet smoker there was a lot of concern. Not especially due to a concern about him getting lung cancer or heart disease, more an unnerving perception among the millions of ex-smokers that this might indicate a basic lack of backbone on the part of Obama. His hiding this addiction was an early indication of his approach to honesty too. It turns out that his character weaknesses have become a major problem for the country. He's afraid of any fight...he is a chicken. What we voters first saw as a certain rather appealing coolness turns out to be ice water flowing in his veins. He has no problem going back on most of his most important campaign promises and selling out many millions of Americans, all the while playing out the Tiger Woods Routine of pretending that he is Mr. Clean the Good Guy.

The Democrats are now apparently considering some sort of even weaker health care reform. Months ago I came to the conclusion that Obama and his team had sold out on so many of the important elements of Universal Health Care that his so called “healthcare reform” should be allowed to die. Just like the growing millions of people in America who are excluded from the healthcare system. The former Vermont Governor, physician, and past head of the democratic party Howard Dean agrees that healthcare reform without “single payer” or even a far weaker “government option” just isn't worth fighting for.

The disgusting games we see being played out in Washington by all the politicians who have been corrupted by taking enormous campaign contributions from wealthy corporations makes me want to vomit. All this dishonesty and corruption has some major implications for our form of government.

The American form of Democracy, which virtually guarantees that our politicians have to sell their souls to get (and remain) elected, is now showing many serious and deep cracks. The American style of Democracy is a very sick puppy. No wonder we are having such a hard time exporting it to poorly educated third-world countries by military force. Unless we manage to reform the way that political campaigns are financed in America, which seems quite improbable, I don't see much of a future for the U.S.A.

Many other countries have managed to solve the problems of political corruption and campaign finance reform. Most other western democracies have already implemented a working form of universal healthcare. But in America we don't seem capable of doing either.

Unless you want your children and grandchildren to suffer horribly, I recommend that you stress that they must become highly proficient in foreign languages. Not just Spanish, but also French and Chinese. Over the last few hundred years many of the wisest Europeans chose to emigrate from their dying countries. It is generally the best and the brightest who have the strength of character to leave their own country and the comfort of their own culture to try and start a new life in a better place.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why Has Obama's Approval Sunk So Much?

He made a big mistake by not openly and aggressively blaming the recession, unemployment, and foreclosures on Bush, Republican greed, and their dishonesty. So what has happened is that these massive economic problems, which were brought on by the Republican obsession with deregulation, have now all gotten squarely blamed on Obama.

Obama surrounded himself with greedy Wall Street economists, and stopped listening to sensible progressive economists such as the Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman.

Barack Obama totally kissed-off (and pissed-off) progressives, liberals, and well educated older folks. He said he would end the wars; instead he significantly increased troop levels. During the campaign for President he said he supported the single payer health care system; he quickly went back on this, then soon after went back on support for the much weaker government option, then even caved in on the almost worthless social security buy in.

Instead of helping to pay for the wars and health care improvements by increasing taxes on super wealthy people making more than $1 million per year, President Obama supported increasing taxes on hourly working people.

President Obama had the absolute, very most liberal voting record of anybody in the U.S. Senate. So it was not unreasonable for voters to assume that this was the real Barack Obama, and these were the ideas he would work for as President. He billed himself as a “community organizer.” Nobody really knew what this meant, but the implication was certainly someone who was not afraid to take on the rich and powerful in support of the common man.

Barack, the progressives and liberals got you elected with a landslide. There was an absolute iron clad guarantee from the beginning that the right wingers, the Republicans, and the ignorant racists would hate you. Because you sold out your main body of support, now no one sees you as a person with strongly held principles or as a man who has much strength of character.

You don't seem to have any back-bone boy. I suppose it is a product of a dark skinned, one-half African kid being raised by a white, single mother. You have successfully led your life so far by avoiding confrontation. This was your way of beating the racists. Well, your tactics didn't work out this time. The white liberals, the well educated people, and the progressives who elected you were all depending on you to take on the big banks, capitalists, liars, racists, drug companies, and health insurance companies.

But it turns out that you just don't have enough balls Barack. As you told Jim Lehrer and the American people on PBS, banging heads together is “not your style.” I describe it differently: weak and ineffective. Jimmy Carter seems like a warrior compared with you Barack.

Now Obama and Tiger Woods are both being painted with the same brush. Guys who pretended to be something they were not. How terribly sad for the country. And sad for all the people who no longer are homeowners because of fraudulent lenders, people who used to have good jobs but are now out of work, and all the millions who are still excluded from the health care system. Sad for all the volunteer soldiers whose lives have been ruined too.

You are a real piece of work President Obama.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Ricky Gervais

This man is brilliant and incredibly funny.
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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fuel Economy

For a few miles it is not difficult to make almost any vehicle get good fuel economy. Over inflate the tires, and drive slowly downhill with a tail wind.

But when one looks at the average fuel economy over a full tank of gasoline, inevitably you have gotten stuck in traffic, the stop lights were not cooperating at times, etc. An even better view of one's true fuel economy is the average achieved over several consecutive tanks of gasoline. This averages out good and bad conditions, city and highway driving, downhill-uphill, etc.

For the last 1,401.1 miles my third generation Toyota Prius has achieved an average fuel consumption of 60.6 miles per gallon. Goodness, that is about what I get with my 250cc Honda scooter!

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Late Night Talk Shows

Craig Ferguson is by far my favorite. His tough guy, don't give a damn attitude is mostly theatrics.

It appears that NBC is just about complete in negotiating Conan The Barbarian's discharge. Jay Leno is old, overweight, and he certainly is not perfect, but Leno is a genuinely nice guy. He is polite without being a prig or a snob. Conan is rude and offensive. He is the sort of person who enjoys watching someone get punked, maybe even get injured a bit. Conan is not my type at all.

David Letterman's ego is so gigantic that everything is about him. And now this self centered, unpleasant person turns out to have been engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment continuing over many years. I record him and Craig Ferguson on my DVR so that I can watch them at a more sensible hour. During the Letterman show I fast forward not just past the commercials, but over all of his monologue. I normally briefly check out who he is interviewing, and then I go on to really watch and enjoy Craig Ferguson.

Jimmy Kimmel and the others are hardly even worth commenting on. I sort of like Kimmel, but Jimmy is distinctly right wing and has behaved in quite an ill-mannered fashion when interviewing some famous guests. People who are smart, well educated, and are trying to improve the world. Not just some fat ass late night TV talk show host. Jimmy is not as bad as Rush Limbaugh, but I'll bet Jimmy Kimmel secretly listens to Rush in the closet while gorging himself on cheese.

Jay Leno has taken a lot of criticism from his competitors, but mostly this is a manifestation of their jealousy and sour grapes. Leno is really a nice person; so is Craig Ferguson. They each are sort of humble in their own ways. Both do stand up comedy completely unrelated to their TV shows. The others guys are just egotistical weirdos who wish they were as talented as these two guys are.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Looking Back

Each morning now when I wake up I am thankful to have been given an extra day. At one time that concept was metaphorical, but as the nights get worse it is becoming more genuine every day.

A friend sent an interesting quote this morning, which I modified slightly:

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely with a substantial, intact bank balance and in an attractive and well-preserved body. Rather to skid in sideways – one's body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO-HOO, what a ride!!"

That seems to summarize the situation rather nicely.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Goldfinger

When I was in college in the late 1960's I read most of the Ian Fleming novels about the British spy called 007. There have been twenty one James Bond movies made to date, most of which I watched when they were new.

Not long ago I bought a complete set of all 21 James Bond movies which have been digitally remastered and burned to DVD. I am gradually working my way through them in chronological order. Yesterday evening I finished the third movie, which was entitled Goldfinger. It is a movie about a supremely evil character named Mr. Goldfinger who is totally consumed with his lust for riches and gold.

As in all the 007 movies there are lots of exciting fight scenes, high tech spy gadgetry, and several beautiful and sexy women. Goldfinger is the movie in which Honor Blackman plays the character named Pussy Galore. The character she plays is beautiful, intelligent, sexy, is good at karate, and is a pilot. She is the primary pilot of Mr. Goldfinger's corporate jet. She also owns and runs a flight school in America which has a fleet of low wing Piper Cherokee airplanes.

I once almost bought a Piper Cherokee 140. While on the “test drive” the airspeed indicator failed, and I had to land the plane without stalling or crashing, only knowing the airspeed by the sound of the wind and visual indications. I was busy enough that I didn't even declare an emergency to air traffic control. In the end I decided not to buy that airplane.

In the movie James Bond drives his tricked out Aston Martin all over the Swiss alps. I haven't ever driven one, but I did get to see this actual Aston Martin he drove in a museum one time. I have been to the Swiss alps many times. The alps are one of the prettiest areas in the entire world. In fact on one backpacking trip into the alps I got to witness an avalanche first hand, up real close and personal; thank goodness without anyone being injured. It was on that particular snow camping trip where I learned/experienced that one can utilize snow balls as toilet paper to wipe your ass after taking a number two. Your rectum contains no temperature sensors. It goes without saying that you need to be rather careful so as to avoid frostbite of that portion of your anatomy.

The climax of the movie Goldfinger takes place in Ft. Knox, Kentucky. In 1972 I got to know the place pretty well. The scenery is green and wonderful. Beautiful Dogwood trees, and some of the largest pine cones I had ever seen at the time. After doing a course in Leadership Preparation I did my Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at the U.S. Army at the Armor Center in Ft. Knox. I learned to drive a tank. This is the ultimate off-road vehicle, with a massive engine, a Chrysler two speed automatic transmission, and no muffler. The M60 tank had a gun which shot bullets a bit larger than 4 inches in diameter (105 mm). When that weapon fires and you are sitting a few feet away inside of the tank, the noise is so loud that you feel the sound vibrating the organs inside your torso. For a second or two this noise is so loud that it sort of knocks you senseless.

It was really pleasant to see the location where America's gold reserves were stored in the movie; I remember it well from forty years ago. They did a good job of filming the military post at Ft. Knox too.

For many years Americans were not allowed to own gold by federal law. This movie was filmed back in that era. I must admit that in the late 1970s I sort of “assisted” my greedy, capitalistic boss of the time in purchasing a solid gold Rolex watch in Juarez, Mexico and then transporting it over the border to America. No doubt the statute of limitations has long since expired, but in case it has not I suppose I shouldn't say much more about that particular event. I have since owned two different Rolexes myself, but I must say that the gold model of Rolex made back then sure did feel heavy on one's wrist.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Juarez Violence

Juarez, Mexico is by far the most dangerous city in the world. For the year 2009 just ended Juarez registered a total of 191 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

Just as comparison here are some other very violent places.

San Pedro Sula, Honduras: 119
San Salvador, El Salvador: 95
Caracas, Venezuela: 94
Guatemala City: 86
Tegucigalpa, Honduras: 69
New Orleans, USA: 69
Medellin, Colombia: 62
Cali, Colombia: 63
Capetown, South Africa: 60

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Nokia Mail In Rebate

I recently bought a new Nokia cell phone from Amazon which included a $50- mail in rebate. My experience with mail in rebates has been mixed, but after following the instructions to the Tee on this one I have a bit of advice: Don’t believe this crap.

I got a form letter from the Nokia Customer Care department today. It has three reasons why they are not going to pay me the rebate including, “This mobile phone purchased is not valid for this offer.”

Do you suppose the high paid executives with Nokia think this is the proper way to increase customer loyalty and satisfaction? Or is it more a way to improve the company’s bottom line and thus their bonus?

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Serenity

The following quote came in today from an American friend of mine who lives in Venice, Italy:

Perhaps the best thing of all for me is to remember that my serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations. The higher my expectations the lower is my serenity. I can watch my serenity level rise when I discard my expectations.

But then my “rights” try to move in, and they, too, can force my serenity level down. I have to discard my “rights,” as well as my expectations, by asking myself, “How important is it, really? How important is it compared to my serenity, my emotional equilibrium?” And when I place more value on my serenity than on anything else, I can maintain at a higher level—at least for the time being.

Lowering one's expectations to a somewhat more realistic and reasonable level certainly makes sense when it comes to one's spouse or one's job. Unrealistic expectations cause tremendous grief.

I have a little more trouble with the second paragraph which involves lowering one's expectation of human rights. I guess one has to sort out what rights are worth fighting for and which “rights” are totally unrealistic. But there are some basic human rights which are well worth fighting for, even if it somewhat upsets one's serenity level.

Only focusing on your level of serenity is missing an important part of the picture of what being a complete human being is. I have never experienced heroin but I suppose that massive doses of opiates induce a sense of serenity also. Alcoholism or tranquilizers initially apparently do the same thing.

There are times when one has to make difficult choices which will help mankind, or one's family or friends, but which might upset one's serenity or even result in one's own demise. If one primarily focuses on one's own happiness or serenity it becomes easy to ignore injustice, discrimination, or other serious evils like right wing extremism.

The narcissistic person is only concerned about their own happiness. What makes humans superior to other animals is our compassion, our kindness, and caring for others. Our ability to help others even when doing so might harm ourselves.

Yes, serenity is important. But it is not the ultimate value.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

How To Lose Health Care Reform

It is important that I preface this by saying that I am a long term liberal Democrat. An anti-war progressive. I was an anti-Vietnam war demonstrator who later served honorably in the U.S. Army. Many years ago I even ran for a minor office and was elected – as a Democrat of course. I vote, I have donated to Obama more than once, and I worked in his campaign.

I get emails at least once a week from the Obama people asking for donations. But they don't ever say what the money is going to be used for. Nor have I seen an accounting of what the money has actually been spent on. I have become so concerned about this lack of openness and transparency that I have stopped making any further donations.

This morning I received an email from these people which really goes over the line. Click on the picture and it should enlarge enough to be readable. The fund raising letter suggests that we are in danger of losing health care reform due to apathy and complacency on the part of Obama supporters.

Let me paint an entirely different picture. We are seeing such apathy and complacency among the supporters of Universal Health Care because so many of us feel that President Obama has completely sold us out. Millions of people are still not going to have health care coverage under the Obama plan. He has sold out the consumer to the drug companies, and he has done a total about face on his campaign support for the "single payer" plan. Then they sold out the even weaker “public option” and even the possibility of buying into social security before you are 65.

Obama has surrounded himself with Wall Street and right wing economists; he has greatly raised the number of troops fighting in the various wars (which he promised to end); and he has not closed all the secret jails run by the U.S. Government. All this has been done dishonestly while pretending to be For the People and By the People.

HELL YES a great many of his prior supporters now are sadly beginning to disassociate themselves from Barack Obama and all his right wing, “no backbone” buddies. This man talks good. So did Ronald Rayguns. But their actions speak far louder than their eloquent but deceptive words.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Smart Phone

A few weeks ago I bought a new smart cell phone.

I got my first smart phone 7 or 8 years ago. At the time I was living in Europe, and I had a series of smart cell phones which would get your email, surf the web, listen to mp3s, watch videos, do blue tooth, and take/modify/view pictures. They had touch screens, qwerty keyboards, and even opened, modified, and saved word, excel, and pdf files. These phones had good calendars, worked as speaker phones, had alarms and timers, and would synchronize with one's computer. If you were near a wifi hot spot you could use the wifi service to connect to the internet. There were plenty of apps available, even way back then.

Since then I guess I have owned six new cell phones. No make that at least eight. The only significant improvements I have seen over this seven years have been the addition of a built in movie camera in addition to the still camera, and building in a GPS receiver.

My latest smart cell phone is made by Nokia. It is slightly thinner and also has a video camera facing you, so that you can do two way video phoning. It will do most of what the old ones would do (although not everything), but its main advantages are that it has a built in GPS and on board street maps already loaded for all of America. It has an 8gb card, about half of which is the maps, etc. It will behave like a stand alone walking or automobile GPS giving voice guidance (without expensively using GPSa or interacting with your cell phone provider). It also is able to take one's GPS position and elevation data and encode it to one's pictures in the hidden EXIF picture data. The picture can thus automatically be placed on a world map in flickr. That is nice; really nice. But other than that it is almost the same as what I already have. In fact I still use one of those eight year old phones as a backup. Still works great.

The Apple iphone has a very low capacity battery which the user cannot change; nor can he unlock the machine and put in a different SIM card. The new Google phone will do most of the things my Nokia will, but not all. The Google phone seems fine to me, but far overpriced. And it isn't really designed for the AT&T system, only T-Mobile. The Google phone is only sold by their own company store. There are words which describe what both of these companies are doing: Greed and Monopoly.

There are indeed some natural monopolies like the sewer and water companies, but this concept doesn't apply to cell phones. The big problem with monopolies like this is that it screws over the consumer. Over time the supplier gets arrogant and rude, and customer service declines. Not to mention that the price paid for the hardware is often way out of line.
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This link is about the new Nokia smart phone LINK: http://store.nokia.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/productdetail_10500_10101_-1_10000537?cid=dev-fw-src-na-acq-nokia5800-goog-us-na-303

The BBC had a article this morning (next day) describing how many Google customers are already angry due to poor customer service and the problems caused by only having one greedy, monopolistic, company-owned store which sells the phone. LINK: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8451473.stm
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Immigration Reform

Immigration Reform is one of those phrases used by politicians that sound good but are basically meaningless.

Comprehensive immigration reform can mean almost anything, clear from a xenophobic point of view where foreigners are not permitted to enter America and we deport all non-citizens to the other end of the spectrum where all undocumented aliens are granted full amnesty and rapid citizenship.

During a deep and hard recession one would not normally expect to see elected politicians supporting any “reform” which helps foreigners and might be seen as taking jobs away from or in any way harming native born Americans.
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LINK: http://hpgarland.blogspot.com/2009/12/immigration-reform.html

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Head Of State


I enjoyed watching this 2003 movie years ago. Long before I had ever heard the name Barack Obama. It is a great comedy; I viewed it again yesterday evening.

In the movie Chris Rock plays Mays Gilliam, an alderman of the 9th Ward in Washington, D.C. who sort of mistakenly gets elected as President of the United States of America.

In this movie Mays Gilliam is not doing well at all in his campaign against the bozo white candidate…until he stops listening to the professional politicians, spin artists, marketing specialists, and other associated liars. Once he begins telling it like he really sees it, his fortunes improve; and he eventually wins the election.

Sort of reminds me of Obama. Back when he was campaigning he passionately talked about the evils of the health insurance companies and the need for a single payer health care system. He spoke of the importance of closing ALL of the secret jails being operated by the U.S. Government. He spoke of the horror of war and the need to really, completely end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He eloquently described the long history and importance of progressive taxation. He understood and described the terribly harmful effects of years of deregulation to this country.

Senator Obama had the very most liberal voting record of any member of the U.S. Senate.

One year into his tenure we find that he has significantly increased the troop levels in the wars. He has not closed all of the secret jails. He has not only given up on the “single payer” health care system, but he has even sold out the far weaker “government option.” His administration has not implemented significantly improved regulation of the abuses and fraud in the financial system. Instead of slightly increasing taxation on the super wealthy to help pay for his modest health care reform program, he has chosen to increase taxes on middle class unionized workers.

He has kept on the Bush warmongers in defense and the military, and most of his economics advisors come directly from Wall Street. He seems to be 100% in the pockets of Wall Street now. His actions show a negative bias against organized labor.

On the issue of terrorism Obama sounds more Bushian every day.

ANYONE would have been a big improvement after Cheney and Bush II. In looking at Obama’s track record in the first year of his presidency I have to say that Barack Obama has certainly not behaved like an intelligent, well educated, open-minded liberal. Not at all. Like Chris Rock, President Obama speaks eloquently. But in many ways his behavior speaks louder, and this has been that of a moderate Republican; sometimes almost the actions of a right winger.
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Many people are beginning to question whether Barack Obama has any deeply held core values at all. He clearly is not at all committed to the values that the Democratic Party has worked so hard for. Of the people, by the people, for the people. Barack has sold out these values to the corrupt liars of the right wing time-after-time. At the slightest little provocation. Obama does not seem to have any backbone at all. No strength of character.
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I strongly disagreed and still do disagree with Ronald Rayguns' supply side economics and most of his other policies as well. Yes, he read his lines well, but the old guy had integrity. He stood up for what he believed in (most of which I disagree with). Even Bozo Bush II (who didn't even read books) refused to sell out his core values....too bad his core values were so sick.

Maybe it is no coincidence that America is beginning to see through the faƧade of Barack Obama right at the same time that Mr. Clean, Tiger Woods, has come tumbling down. This is like a Greek tragedy, except it is happening to our own country.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Principles

Martin Luther King stood up for what he believed in. So did Gandhi.

Barack Obama is going back on more and more of what he campaigned on. He campaigned on stopping the wars and getting single payer health insurance implemented so that EVERYONE in America would be insured.

As it turns out one year later, this guy is just a typical Chicago politician. Very interested in fund raising. Less interested in disclosing what all that money is being used for. Willing to sell out his principles to the right wing at the smallest sign of conflict.

He has increased the troop levels fighting the wars, and he has not closed all of the secret jails. He did very little heavy lifting in the fight over universal health care.

Obama is a horrible disappointment. In many ways he just represents another side of the Tiger Woods phenomenon. Say anything, do anything to get rich, famous, and powerful. Fall on your sword or stand up for your principles? Get real.

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Religious Wars

Worldwide many people who believe in the Muslim faith feel that a religious war is beginning to develop between Muslims and Christians. They are quite wrong.

Religious fanatics frequently become blinded to reality. They become true believers.

There is indeed a major conflict brewing, but it sure isn't between Christians and Muslims. It is between the overwhelming majority of people who are largely secular and reasonable; versus the various lunatic religious sects like the Muslims. Frankly fundamentalist Christians aren't much better than these weirdo Muslims. These people are living in the past; back in the dark ages.

Yes indeed. There is a war brewing with the Muslims. But it doesn't have much to do with religion or Christianity on the other side. It is a war between reason and murderous fanaticism.

The religious fanatics will eventually lose this war, but only after vast numbers of people have been injured and killed. How sick. Makes me want to vomit.

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Dr. Who Regenerates






Over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays the tenth Dr. Who, played by David Tennant, regenerated into the eleventh Doctor, played by Matt Smith.

David Tennant has done an absolutely superb job, so Matt Smith has some very big shoes to fill.

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Happy Birthday Sir Isaac Newton


Sir Isaac Newton was born on this date in 1643. He was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, and theologian. Many scholars consider him to be one of the most influential scientists in history.

Among many other things he built the first practical reflecting telescope. He also developed a theory of color based upon observing that a prism breaks down white light into the range of colors that make up the visible spectrum. He also studied the speed of sound and formulated an empirical law of cooling.

I owe him a debt of gratitude since I currently own two Newtonian reflecting telescopes. My favorite is the wonderful eight inch Dobsonian. Happy Birthday Sir Isaac!

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V Is For Vendetta


Over the Christmas holidays I saw some out-of-town friends. They recommended that I watch the 2006 movie called V is for Vendetta. I ordered it used from Amazon, and it arrived yesterday.

The plot is about a British man who is called “V”. He has been horribly wronged by the totalitarian government of Britain. America has fallen into anarchy. He is a lonely, but very caring and classy guy whose house is filled with wonderful ancient art, antiques, and antiquities. In the process of waging war against this totalitarian British government he meets and rescues a girl from the secret police who is named Evey. Together they fight the totalitarian brutality.

The movie has many great actors including Natlie Portman and Stephen Fry. This is a truly outstanding movie on lots of different levels. I rate it a solid ten out of ten!

One memorable quote from the movie, “People should not be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.”




LINK: http://vforvendetta.warnerbros.com/

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Drugs Violence

America has paid a high financial price for the “war on drugs.” Many others, including Mexico, Colombia, and Afghanistan have also paid a high price, but in violence, death, and the destruction of their society.

The approach which has been taken since President Ronald Rayguns was reading his lines has been ineffective. No doubt that is a bit of an understatement. If your father or child has been killed in the violence between the drugs cartels or the various armies and police forces, heartbreaking would be a better word than ineffective.

The root cause lies in the demand for recreational/escapist drugs. Especially demand from the richer countries.

Would it be wise to simply make alcohol, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, oxycontin, and methamphetamine completely legal and unregulated? The market approach of lower taxation on rich people and complete and total deregulation is what the brain-dead right wing still believes will solve all of our problems. During the 1930s and the prohibition era we amply proved in America that thinking the federal government is strong enough to completely overrule the wishes of the citizens is a total fantasy.

It is clear that drug production and distribution needs to be taken out of the hands of the drugs mafias. Semi-legalization and taxation might be a better solution. The current approach is running roughshod over the concept of rule-of-law. More and more American law enforcement personnel are being corrupted by bribes from the drug barons.

A good place to begin might be marijuana. Lets stop pretending that all those shops in California are selling “medical marijuana” to horribly sick people. We need for the government to regulate the growth and sale of pot, and we need to utilize this as a source of tax revenue. We do it with alcohol and tobacco, why not with marijuana?

The next step should be to truly regulate prescription medicines like oxycontin, sleeping pills, tranquilizers and any other medications which hold a risk of habituation. It would not be difficult to set up a nationwide computer system of pharmacists, doctors, and patients. Right now we have both doctors and patients abusing the system horribly. Every prescription would go into this data base, and if a patient is getting drugs from multiple doctors it would show up. It also would allow the doctor to see what other medications the patient is taking. Of course harsh penalties need to be applied to those who try to get around the law.

Once a country loses respect for rule-of-law and is taken over by corruption, the road to poverty is almost inevitable.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Aggressive Big Dogs Off The Leash

My little black doggie and I went to the flea market this morning. We go most Saturday mornings so that we can buy fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes and home made tamales. I had Inu on the leash since there were a lot of people around. Many people are afraid of dogs, and having your dog on a leash is a matter of good manners and common courtesy.

What looked like a full grown male St. Bernard walked up to us. He was not wearing a collar and he still had his testicles. At first he seemed like a nice enough guy, he and Inu were doing the sniff the backside routine. He began to get very frisky, and I joked in Spanish to the people nearby that my dog was ALSO a male.

Soon the St. Bernard began barking very enthusiastically and started getting fairly aggressive. I tried to shoo him off, but I was unsuccessful. By now the big dog was barking wildly, getting downright aggressive, and a crowd was starting to gather around us. Inu and I have been through this before with large, male bullies who have far too much testosterone and no collar or leash.

I reached down and with the quick release mechanism quickly removed the leash from Inu's collar. This was to give him the flexibility of movement he needed. I folded the chain-leash in two and began swinging it as a weapon. Inu and I then both charged the bully St. Bernard in tandem. He went scurrying away like a bully who had just been woefully shamed in public. Inu strutted around a bit, and in Spanish I said to the shocked crowd, “I don't want any trouble...from doggies or people. But if it comes anyway, then I am happy to join in. If he wants to play it is OK.”

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I feel a bit ashamed to admit it, but afterwards Inu and I both felt like, Hey Man, we've still got it!
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Friday, January 01, 2010

Intelligence Agencies Fighting Wars

There is something very distressing about the CIA and various others of America's maze of sixteen intelligence agencies gradually morphing into organizations which not only try to discover and analyze information for our military and our elected civilian leadership, but then also planning and executing frequent secret paramilitary missions.

If this is not unconstitutional, then it should be made so.

The annual budget for the military in America is enormous. It is an order of magnitude larger than any other country on the planet. If we were to take only one third of this budget for killing, we could provide full health and dental care to all citizens and visitors, legal or not, who are in America. We could substantially improve education and reduce poverty and suffering. This is only talking about the military budgets which are for the most part openly disclosed. The intelligence agencies are mostly funded through secret appropriations. Thus it is not possible for the citizens of the American “democracy” to find out how much of our tax money the government is spending upon these secret organizations.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan we find that the American government no longer trusts the military to protect our top diplomats. This task is handled by relatively unaccountable private contractors. The CIA no longer just tries to get good information on the enemy, they now also decide who to bomb, and then CIA employees actually operate the drone aircraft and do the killing. No judge or jury, and apparently very little oversight by the professional military or the elected civilian leadership. The CIA also has many firebases in Afghanistan.

These people set up Guantanamo and various secret prisons outside of America so that the government could torture suspects and not be hindered by silly little things like the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights. This trend towards increasing secrecy is not healthy for the American democracy.

I haven't used the words “police state” or “authoritarian” but I probably should.

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